Monday, February 04, 2008

Questions for week 3 readings:

Public service and the public library:

In her analysis of Garrison, Fain quotes: "librarians tended to 'serve' the reader, rather than to help ... [they] felt a a strong obligation to meet the needs of the public and were self-consciously sensitive to requests and complaints of the client," (Garrison quote by Fain, 103).

F. B. Perkins suggests the following: "... a perfect librarian is bound to be courteous and kind, attentive and accommodating, not only to the polite and considerate, but also to the evil and the unthankful," (Perkins, 427). Perkins goes on to say, "so far as circumstances permit, the library should do whatever is asked of it," (Perkins, 428).

Questions: To what degree are public service roles the same today? How do they differ? Does the public dictate the actions of the public library, or does the public librarian dictate the actions of the patron? Is there a balance? Is the public library of today (21st century) more involved with the community, inside and outside the structure of the library itself?

In F. B. Perkins "how-to" the public library is compared to a small business in its function for a small town - regarding this small business management, he states "a small library ... depends, if not even from month to month, certainly from year to year, upon the continual watchfulness, tact, and alertness with which not the wishes of learned men, but the public demand for entertaining reading is understood and met and gratified and managed," (Perkins, 420).

Questions: To what degree does the public library still refrain from functioning for the scholar, and rather exist for the public at large, the community, the working person? Is the public library of today still generally concerned with the "stuff in it" (i.e. books over the people), or do the people (staff included!) play a larger role in todays efforts within the library system?

In Michael Harris' revisionist historical interpretation, he mentions the taboo nature of censorship in libraries, and how in the libraries developmental stages, censorship was indeed "frequently used in the pages of professional literature ... [and] the librarian was responsible for keeping certain books from the public," (Harris, 2511).

Questions: To what degree does censorship play a role in libraries today (think about the library of the future scandal in San Fransisco), and how does a library guard against censorship, if it is as taboo as Harris mentions? Is there a difference in book "censorship" in public verses academic libraries (consider the function of a locked case in a library)? What about banned books, and how they are kept out of public schools, and to what degree out of public libraries?

In Elaine Fain's article the matter of user retention appears - as it does in the Harris article - and the issue if tossed around with unknown results. She emphasizes that "one could entice or browbeat an adult into entering a public library, but there was no way to force him to stick ... public libraries were faced with the problem of attracting and keeping clientele," (Fain, 102). Similarly, but more dramatically, Harris 'sweepingly' states at the end of his article that "people no longer see the library as important," (Harris, 2514).

Questions: What methods of retention are in place for the public libraries of today? Is keeping the community in the library still a problem? In cities where academic libraries are more prevalent, does the public library suffer? What "marketing" strategies are utilized for public libraries today, and how do some of these strategies crossover into other types of libraries, or other public institutions?

Regarding the Dain article:

Dain (263) notes that "generalizations about attitudes and motives of the early librarians must be limited due to the lack of substantive studies upon which to base such assessments". In a field populated by experts with history and\or English backgrounds why has so little been written about the field of librarianship?

Dain (262): How has the historically "conservative motives" and "ameliorative means" of early library leaders such as Ticknor affected the way we ask for funding and position ourselves in the past and in the present?

Dain (264) suggests that there was a desire for libraries to be taken seriously in early librarianship. Serious books and a scholarly disposition was a hallmark of the orientation of the day. To what degree did this affect the materials collected and the populations served?

Dain (266): According to Amitai Etzioni "low effectiveness in achieving institutional goals is characteristic of organizations". In what ways have libraries achieved their goals or failed to meet them? In what way have the goals changed?

Kristina and Petey (group 3).

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