Thursday, February 02, 2006

330 The paucity of Christian material in public libraries

Recently I did a quick survey of our town library shelves (suburban, about 40,000, predominately white, college educated (96%) and Christian) for Christian material. There was one book published in 1964 on Lutherans, although we have one of the largest Lutheran churches in the country, and two smaller Lutheran congregations (these were founded when the synod make-up was different). There was one evangelical Christian magazine (but 40 magazines on theater, film making, movies, video, and computers). So I visited the periodicals librarian, requesting an increase in this area. I left her some samples, not to be added to the collection, but so she could familiarize herself with the vocabulary, values, book reviews, etc. My request was denied. I won't bore you with my entire response, but here's part of it:

"I’m sorry to hear, but not at all surprised, that you were unable to add even one more title to your ONE evangelical Christian title in the serial section because “these titles are carried by academic libraries or church affiliated institutions but no public libraries of our size. . . and these titles are not indexed in our periodical database which would make finding articles in the future difficult.” I’m impressed you are concerned about your future readers; I am not impressed that your current readers, the ones who support the library with their taxes, are being under served. Approved lists and accessible indices are wonderful, but they don’t take the place of representing the interests of your community. Also, most library users by-pass those indices and go right to Google, blogs or keyword searches."

"Librarians are 223:1 liberal to conservative on the political spectrum--more imbalance than Hollywood, the legal profession, or probably even the ACLU. This is not to say that there are no politically liberal Christians, nor liberal Christian librarians, but often collections in public libraries reflect not the community’s needs and wants, but the librarians’ beliefs and values, ergo, no evangelical magazines appear on any of the recommended lists which make up the recommended titles for databases from which you make your recommendations. It’s a closed loop."

When I was the veterinary medicine librarian at Ohio State, we had almost no breed books for dogs or cats, because they aren't considered "academic" or "scholarly." This meant non-university people and children doing school projects were coming to the library to use material way over their comprehension level when they wanted to learn about Cushing's Disease in dogs or hyperthyroidism in cats. This put more pressure on me and my staff to help them find something appropriate taking time away from our regular clientele. So I purchased many breed titles, because often diseases and conditions are specific to the breed due to inbreeding. Librarians are allowed to purchase for the need of the people using the library, despite the collection guidelines, or they aren't worth the little they are being paid.

1 comment:

johng said...

Louisville, Ky, has a good library system that is certainly being lost to PC-ism. The children's area, my home, went first. Directors are often the actual culprit. When I visited a beautiful branch library (classically styled and renovated; Louisville is big on fine buildings), I asked the children's librarian about Christian books. (Or moral reading suitable for Christian young people, my interest.) She quietly took me aside.. and, in undertones, explained that she did fill such requests. Not usually, was her attitude. Still.. since they were near the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, they did sometimes receive requests for moral reading. I appreciated her hesitation. PC-ism, it seems, however, had made my question not quite polite. Perhaps intolerant.