Hard Times

July 6, 2010 at 8:38 am 1 comment

Posted by Emily Knox

It’s the beginning of July and another American Library Association conference is over. One of the most amazing things about conferences is how tiring they are–at the end of the day it’s all one can do to simply crawl into bed. ALA is huge and just getting to a particular meeting via bus from the conference center to a hotel can take up to 45 minutes depending on traffic.

This year I volunteered to recruit for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information’s Department of Library and Information Science. It was so exciting to meet people who are interested in research in our field. Throughout the recruitment session I was reminded of why I started the program in the first place–I have a question that I want to answer and getting a doctorate provides me with the background and resources I need to answer it.

It will come as no surprise that the conference was filled with budget talk and the precarious state of library funding. In the midst of an economic downturn people, people tend to focus on how much libraries cost to run. Recently the Fox affiliate in Chicago asked “Are Libraries Necessary?” And all of us are aware of the budget crisis in New Jersey library funding.

However, I noticed another undercurrent to many of the sessions that I attended. People also turn to the library as a symbol of their fears in a changing and somewhat frightening world. I heard about a library board member who used the library collection as a political football. Librarians not wanting to “make a big deal” out of controversial materials and quietly removing them. (This practice increases in hard financial times – librarians don’t want to put their budgets at risk for one item). Inevitably, all of these discussions turned to policy. It is incredibly important that library policies are up-to-date and easily retrievable.

Have you looked at the policies for your board of trustees and/or library committee? Do they include a code of ethics? (This was recommended by the librarian whose board member had played political football with the library’s collection). What about the library’s form for reconsideration? Does it include a final arbiter? Do all stakeholders have a copy of your all policies and forms including the Board of Education or whatever governing body you report to? I encourage you to take the time to look through all of your policies and update any that are not current. Unfortunately, in these hard times libraries will be attacked from all sides and good policies are one of our best lines of defense.

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ALA Unconference Congrats to Amy Kearns!!

1 Comment

  • 1. Julia Skinner  |  October 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    This is a great post! I think so many libraries just assume that policy is there, and current, and in the hands of the people it needs to be, but it really is a great protection. It makes me think of the libraries I studied in WWI–unfortunately the few bits of policy I saw were updates to how the library was funded, etc. but I never did get to see what their policies were in regards to collections. It would be a pretty cool area to explore though.
    I’m curious when you talk about the increase in librarians quietly removing items that might raise a fuss, do you know of any studies that talk about this in the present day? It would be neat to look at to get a sense of how much this practice increases during a recession. I also didn’t make the connection that you were also at the PhD fair until just now! That was one of my favorite parts of ALA.


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