It is not a good day for the Weekly when the Arizona Daily Star gives a better and more reasonable voice to those protesting the established order in this city than it does, but that seems to be the case here. Why Mr. Gibson chose to focus his reaction on the admittedly alarmist (and non-local) infowars.com is a mystery to me, when the objections to the resolution were first made, and in a reasonable form, via the activist organization Tucson Forward (tucsonforward.com) and a report in the Occupied Tucson Citizen ("Tucson’s Mayor and Council declare emergency and abdicate responsibility to Air Force", http://occupiedtucsoncitizen.org/?p=2312). Since the Star is now picking up on the real objections to this resolution, as can be seen by their decision to print an Op-Ed in today's Star from Tucson Forward member Lee Stanfield, ("Council resolution on D-M denies citizens' rights, puts city at risk" http://azstarnet.com/news/opinion/guest-co…), I hope that the Weekly will pick up some of the issues raised by this resolution as well (including the routine use of the "emergency" clause -- just because its routine doesn't make it right, an emergency should mean an emergency, shouldn't it?).
Though I appreciate Ms. Cervantes taking the time to respond to my guest opinion piece, she doesn’t manage to answer the basic question I was asking in it. Namely, why is it that our library is next to last in the number of books it has per resident (of public libraries serving a comparably sized area), when it spends enough money on books to be in the middle of the pack? Especially when the library’s shelves are sitting half empty! No amount of trying to abstractly rationalize the library’s aggressive discard policy will explain to me why the library shouldn’t keep the many relevant and contemporary titles that it discards, even if they don't get checked out as often as the library administration has determined to be often enough.
I believe that Pima County's low ranking in the area of print materials is the result of a deliberate policy decision and not due to its being in a warm weather area. Four of the top ten ranking libraries in the Institute of Museum and Library Services survey I cited (out of 29, where we rank 28), after all, are located in California or Florida. And I don't think that the point that Starcommand makes, to the effect that "Did you know that tax monies allotted to library systems depend in part on circulation of items? Check stuff out more, and more money will be made available to the system..." is applicable to Pima County Public Library. As my article argues, the library has plenty of money to spend on books, and it spends that money, it just gets rids of those books, and very quickly. This policy is made even mysterious by the fact that its shelves sit half empty, so why not keep the many relevant and still contemporary titles that it discards, even if they don't get checked out as often as the library has determined is often enough?
To try and redeem the PCPL's discard policy by calling on the panacea of ebooks and digital "transformations" is, I believe, a mistake. First of all, the PCPL policy of maintaining a poor book collection predates any meaningful use of ebooks, and so why should we think it do any better with ebooks? In fact, it could well be worse, as the publishers, always frustrated that they would sell a book to a library that would then be read innumerable times without any profit going to them, have banded together and are holding firm in their requirement that a library can only license an ebook from them for so many downloads (I believe the figure is 28), and then must buy the ebook again. PCPL itself acknowledges the serious problems it is facing regarding ebooks in this and other regards on its website (http://www.library.pima.gov/about/news/?id…), and so it is hardly possible to put this forward as a solution.
The other points here are also highly conjectural. Yes, there are a few books on highly specific and topical subjects that might be out of date by the time they're published, but this doesn't apply to the vast majority of books being published and read; to state that video clips of art are much more impactful than a two dimensional photo doesn't describe any meaningful experience of looking at, e.g., a painting by Van Gogh that I would recognize; and, yes, encyclopedias and dictionaries, where one is seeking discreet, concrete bits of information, are easier via digital forms, but that hardly applies to all areas of textual endeavor. Indeed, ebooks are having real problems trying to replace, e.g., the visual outlay and accessibility of the modern-day textbook.
In any case, the important point is that our library has for many, many years been quite content to provide Pima County residents with a sub-standard collection of books when no digital alternative exists (and which still doesn't). Such a library has a philosophical problem that is likely to continue even if there is a digital transformation. In my correspondence with the PCPL it is hard to get at the root of this philosophy, as they use a lot of terminology, such as having a "vibrant" collection (because a lot of books come and go from the collection). My sense, however, is that they have accepted a kind of corporate mentality in that each book must justify its place on the shelf by its popular demand in the same way that Barnes and Noble does, which is why their collection resembles that of a Barnes and Noble bookstore.
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