My Not So Merry Correspondence with our Public Library; or, Virtue Unrewarded

January 23, 2018

Dear Devoted Reader,

For a number of years now I have been describing and protesting the intentional degradation of Pima County Public Library as a library (that is, a place that should first and foremost have a variety of books and magazines, as opposed to a place that has meeting rooms, “entrepreneurial zones” and a few bestsellers lying around) by the library administration. I have done this in a variety of genres and venues, including articles and essays that have appeared in this very publication as well as the Tucson Weekly. But one genre that I have not used until now is the epistolary one, that is, via letters in the great tradition of Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by the 18th century novelist Samuel Richardson. And so, to help fill out (for the record) this dimension of my modest little campaign, I present to you below the complete, chronological correspondence and related communications that have transpired between me, writing on behalf of the National Writers Union (NWU), and the Pima County Public Library (PCPL).

For those of you patient enough to make your way through this correspondence, please note the skilled use by the directors of our library of the time-honored techniques of obfuscation (that is, never directly answer any question that might put your institution in a bad light, and never speak to the complainant in anything but the most politely turgid officialese), pomposity (talk down to the complainant, i.e. always act as though he or she simply doesn’t understand the situation), misrepresentation (first misrepresent your complainants to others in such a way as to make them look stupid or banal, and only later, and in a much smaller venue, offer clarification, see letter of 12-23-2010, my email of 1-3-2011, and “clarification” in Director’s Report of 3-7-2011), and even — most unbecomingly for a library — censorship (or so it would appear, in the context of the PCPL entry on Wikipedia, see 12-6-2012).

Yours truly, etc., etc.,

Greg Evans
Member, Occupied Tucson Citizen Working Group

*****

March 9, 2010

Nancy Ledeboer
Library Director
Pima County Public Library
101 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701

Dear Ms. Ledeboer:

As a member of the Steering Committee of the Tucson unit of the National Writers Union, I am writing to seek clarification regarding your policy of discarding books from the collection of the Pima County Public Library (PCPL). Some of our members (including myself) have been expressing their alarm at the rate at which you seem to be discarding “mid-list” books, that is, books by known and respected, but not best-selling, authors.

One member in particular noticed that novels by authors such as Kobo Abe and Stanislaw Lem that she’d checked out from PCPL and read in past years were no longer in the library’s collection. Further investigation revealed that the library had in fact discarded most of the titles by each of these authors so that, at the current time, the library has only one title by Abe and one by Lem. We then did some quick research over the Internet and ascertained that such a situation was not typical of public libraries in similar-sized metropolitan areas (we included in this Tulsa, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque).

While PCPL has, as we already mentioned, one title by Abe and one title by Lem, Tulsa has six Lem titles and eight Abe titles; Salt Lake City has eleven Lem titles (plus six of those titles in the original Polish, as well as titles in Russian and German) and eight Abe titles; and Albuquerque has sixteen Lem titles and two Abe titles. Research on additional mid-list authors, such as Italo Calvino and the American writers Richard Yates and Donald Antrim, shows a similar pattern. Which is to say, PCPL either lags behind other libraries, and often dramatically so, or, at best, ties another library for the lowest total number of books by a particular author.

Since we know from our collective experience that PCPL once had many of the titles that these other libraries still hold, we were wondering what the policy is regarding the discarding of such books. We, of course, realize that no library can maintain in its collection, for example, self-help books that have gone out of fashion, obsolete computer books, pulp fiction by forgotten authors, and other such works, but it makes no sense to us that PCPL is discarding works by such established authors as we’ve mentioned, thereby effectively depriving a significant portion of the Tucson public the opportunity to read them, or even to learn of their existence. This is especially a concern because residents of our sister cities aren’t similarly deprived.

We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
Membership Chair
National Writers Union – Tucson Unit

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Scanned letter from library answering my letter

[NOTE: We have obscured the name of the circulation manager since he is not in a policy making position and so is not responsible for the policies being set forth — GE]

*****

July 19, 2010

R___ D_____
Manager
Collection Development Office
Pima County Public Library
101 North Stone Avenue
Tucson, Arizona 85701

Dear Mr. D_____,

Thank you for your reply to our letter of March 9. It was informative to read about your weeding guidelines as well as your general overview of the situation regarding the limited shelf space. However, your letter didn’t address one of my key points, which was that Pima County Public Library seems to seriously lag behind the libraries of sister cities (in my brief survey these included Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Tulsa) in terms of retention of works by mid-list authors. Assuming that circulation levels of these authors are roughly the same in Tucson as in the other cities, we can also assume that these other libraries have less demanding guidelines regarding circulation of books by mid-list authors. This, in turn, suggests that PCPL has a very different guiding philosophy regarding the retention of these works, which is perhaps reflected in the weeding guidelines’ demands that “in general, any novel should circulate several times a year” and that even the large branches and main library should only keep a novel for 2 to 5 years.

You suggest in your letter that this is in large part due to a lack of shelf space, and yet all libraries suffer from lack of shelf space. Does the PCPL, then, have some special problems in this regard? I’m inclined to think not, as I have been noticing over the past few years how the main library has been steadily reducing their shelf space (such as on the 3rd floor, which recently reduced its available shelf space by going to shorter shelf units, or on the first floor where shelf space was reduced to accommodate the new “cafe” area). In addition, it seems that PCPL has a policy that the book shelves should never get too cluttered with books (most of the library shelves at the main branch are at least half empty).

So I would be curious as to what this guiding philosophy might be regarding the availability and retention of such mid-list books. My sense of it, based on the fairly rigorous demands of your guidelines (where even classics should only be kept “as long as there is a demand.”), and my general impression and experience of PCPL, is that it is seeking on some level to emulate a market-based approach and rationale. In fact, I have often remarked to people that PCPL’s fiction collection reminds me of the selection in Borders’ or Barnes and Noble bookstores — which is to say, a fairly wide ranging selection of the most current titles, both popular and literary, a few of the more popular older titles of contemporary authors, and then a small core collection of classics.

And we at the NWU have serious objections to a public library of a city our size having such a limited selection of works. We, as a trade union of free-lance writers, are concerned with building up a readership for both writers and literature in general, and we feel that a policy such as PCPL seems to have adapted does not do that. I will point to Stanislaw Lem, one of the authors I cited in my previous letter, as an example. You have, in total, one novel by him (having discarded some number of his other works). The work you do have, Solaris, is perhaps his best-known work (two movies have been made from it) and is often checked out (you have three copies, one of which was lost and paid for, another of which has been billed for, and the third of which circulates). The problem is, when one of your readers reads Solaris and then looks to read more books by Lem, they won’t find any and won’t, therefore, have the opportunity to get “hooked” on his writing (and readers getting so engaged with a particular author is often the way they become engaged with literature in general). Yes, they can order a copy via interlibrary loan, but that is not a step that many will have the time, energy, or knowledge to do.

One part of your guidelines does seem to reflect our way of thinking, and the way of thinking that I presume our sister cities libraries use when they choose to retain representative collections of such author’s works, and this occurs when you advise: “Always review a series as a whole. Consider discarding novels in a series only when the demand has greatly diminished and the series is no long being published. Be careful to not discard low use books in a series too quickly.” I would suggest that an author’s opus is a kind of series, and that while some titles indeed are not checked out so often, they form a necessary part of a whole.

So, all of this having been said, we appreciated your comment at the end of your letter thanking us for our letter because, as you put it, the issues it raised “will help to emphasize the importance of keeping mid-tier authors in our collection to our staff.” But this is, nonetheless, rather vague and we would like to know if there is any mechanism or way in which the current policy can be addressed, and hopefully rectified, in a more formal way.

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
Membership Chair
National Writers Union – Tucson Unit

[NOTE: The above letter was not answered by the Pima County Public Library – GE.]

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December 7, 2010

Nancy Ledeboer
Library Director
Pima County Public Library
101 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701

Dear Ms. Ledeboer:

We are concerned that the Pima County Public Library has an overly aggressive policy for discarding books from the library’s collection. In our previous two letters to the library on this subject we mentioned that some of our members have noticed that books which they had recently checked out have since disappeared from the collection, even though the books were by established authors or on important topics. When we checked the card catalog of PCPL and libraries from similar sized metropolitan areas, we found that the PCPL seriously lagged behind comparable public library systems in their holdings of numerous important authors.

More conclusively, when we checked the Public Library Survey database at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (www.imls.gov), we were able to confirm this as a general pattern: the PCPL’s collection is tied for last in the number of books per capita among library systems serving comparable population service areas (please see accompanying sheet).

This immediately raised the question as to why a library that ranks so poorly in per capita book ownership should so aggressively discard books. That it is an aggressive policy is demonstrated by the “weeding” guidelines of PCPL, according to which, “in general,” a novel should be discarded unless it circulates “several times a year” and even classics should only be kept for “as long as there is a demand” for them. R______ D______, in his response to our first letter, cited limited shelf space as a key reason for this policy. But just in the last year we have seen the main library significantly reduce its available shelf space (especially on the third floor), while maintaining it’s traditional practice of keeping many shelves half or completely empty, so this rationale does not seem to hold up.

Which once again leaves us with the question: why in the world would a public library that ranks so poorly in its holdings have such an aggressive discard policy? We would like an answer to this question. We would also like to know how a policy that maintains the PCPL as a bottom-tier public library in terms of per capita book holdings can be reconciled with the PCPL’s mission statement to provide “abundant print materials” and whether the decision to implement this policy was ever discussed with the public or their elected representatives.

And, last but not least, we would like to know what steps we can take to persuade the library to end this seemingly self-destructive policy. We asked this same question in our second letter to the PCPL on this matter (dated July 19, 2010), but received no reply and so would appreciate one this time.

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
Membership Chair
National Writers Union – Tucson Unit

Enclosure

CC: Miley Clark
David Ellington
Shirley Geile
Marjorie Gerdes
Obdúlia González
Maureen Lueck
Annabelle Nuñez
Pat Peterson
Tom Ward

[NOTE: This letter was carbon copied to all of the current members of the Pima County Public Library Advisory Board]

*****

December 23, 2010

Mr. Evans
P.O Box 86902
Tucson, AZ 85754-6902

Dear Mr. Evans,

Your letter dated December 7, 2010 was received and forwarded to the members of the Library Advisory Board. In your letter you expressed concerns on behalf of the National Writers Union, Tucson Unit 16. Specifically you objected to the withdrawal of library materials from the Pima County Public Library.

In March of 2010 you wrote to the Collection Development Manager inquiring why books by the members of your organization were not in the library’s collection. A response was sent explaining that the Pima County Public Library maintains a popular collection of materials to meet the changing needs and interests of the community. The Collection Development Policy outlines the criteria for selecting materials as well as the criteria for withdrawing items from the collection. As stated in the policy items that do not circulate are candidates for withdrawal. This allows the library to add new materials on an on-going basis. You sent a response to this letter dated July 17, in which you repeated concerns about the practice of discarding “mid-list” authors.

I understand that an author group, such as the one you represent might be unhappy to find that their books are not retained indefinitely in the Library. Your description of the PCPL collection as “a fairly wide ranging selection of the most current titles, both popular and literary, a few of the more popular older titles of contemporary authors, and then a small core collection of classics” is an accurate description of a popular library. As a popular library we do not consider PCPL to be a research or archival institution.

You inquired why the rate of items per capita is lower for PCPL than for other libraries. Since our goal is to provide books that meet the current interests of the community we focus on maintaining a higher turn over rate than per capita rate. If you compare the turn over rate for items in our collection you will find that we have a comparable (if not higher) turn over rate compared to other libraries.

With the advent of digital books it may be possible in the near future for libraries to provide access to a wider range of back list titles. Perhaps the members of your group would consider providing their books in a digital format that does not require space on library shelves. This will allow readers everywhere to easily access these titles.

Thank you for your concern and for sharing suggestions about revisions to the Collection Development Policy. The Library Advisory Board approves the policies which are then adopted by the Board of Supervisor. I will share your concerns with the Library Advisory Board at their next meeting.

Sincerely,

Nancy Ledeboer

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MINUTES OF THE LIBRARY BOARD

January 3, 2011
4:00 p.m.
Pima County Public Library
Joel D. Valdez Main
101 N. Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701

MEMBERS PRESENT: Marjorie Gerdes, Obdúlia González, Tom Ward, Maureen Lueck, Shirley Geile, Miley Clark, Pat Peterson, David Ellington …

  1. Collection Development Discussion:

A few months ago a special interest group representing writers wrote to Collection Development Manager R_____ D______ inquiring why books that their members have published are not kept in the Library’s collections. Mr. D______ sent a response explaining the Library’s policy and weeding guidelines. Last month a letter was delivered to the Library Director and Library Advisory Board once again objecting to what is perceived as “aggressive” weeding of materials. In the agenda item background Nancy explained the procedure on Collection Maintenance and also provided the board with a copy of her response to the group.

After a short discussion the Board indicated support for the current practices and the scope of the Collection as it is defined in the Collection Development Policy. The Board unanimously agreed that Nancy’s response was appropriate and needed no response to the Writer’s group. Should there be another letter from the group then the Advisory Board President will respond.

Board Vice President, Obdúlia González, a librarian for Tucson Unified School District, stated that she follows the same procedure in order to maintain a vibrant, current collection.

From: NWU Tucson [mailto:nwutucson@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 8:05 PM
To: Nancy Ledeboer
Subject: RE: Correspondence of December 7

Dear Ms. Ledeboer,

Thank you for your reply of December 26. Just to clarify one point: you stated in your reply that, in our first letter to you (March 2010), we were inquiring as to why books by our members were not in the library’s collection. Actually, we weren’t. Nor have we ever done so in any of the letters that we’ve sent you. The writers mentioned in that letter (Kobo Abe, Stanislaw Lem, Richard Yates) are established mid-list authors that, so far as I know, were never members of the NWU and have all, in any case, now passed on. Our concerns in this matter, then, are for the general well-being of the library and the community in regard to books, reading, and writing, and not the narrower one your reply suggests.

And, in this regard, we are not convinced that our opinions are being heard in this matter. We have noticed, for example, that the second floor of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library is also now being converted to three shelf units, which means of course a further reduction in the number of available books. We will, nonetheless, have much more to say about these matters in the near future. In the meantime, however, I have just one question: are you planning on also converting the first floor (predominately fiction) book section to the three shelf units, as you have already the second and third floors?

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
National Writers Union
(UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
Tucson Unit

*****

From: Nancy Ledeboer <Nancy.Ledeboer@pima.gov>
To: NWU Tucson <nwutucson@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, February 4, 2011 10:44 AM
Subject: RE: Correspondence of December 7

Mr. Evans,

Thank you for clarifying your concerns about the lack of works by established mid-list authors. I did not intend to imply that you were only concerned about works by your members.

As you note, the shelves on the second floor were recently lowered. However, since the top two shelves and the bottom shelves were previously empty we did not reduce the collection size when we lowered the shelves.

There are no plans to lower the shelving on the first floor.

Nancy

*****

From: NWU Tucson <nwutucson@yahoo.com>
To: Nancy Ledeboer <Nancy.Ledeboer@pima.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 7:15 PM
Subject: RE: Correspondence of December 7

Dear Ms. Ledeboer:

I appreciate that you, in your December 23 reply to our concerns regarding the PCPL collection, “did not intend to imply that you were only concerned about works by your members.” I have, however, just read the minutes of the January 3 Library Board meeting and noted that, nonetheless, just that impression of us has now been entered into the official record. Namely, that “a few months ago a special interest group representing writers wrote to Collection Development Manager R_____ D______ inquiring why books that their members have published are not kept in the Library’s collections,” I would appreciate if this matter would be clarified to the Library Board at your next meeting and it be entered into the record that this was a misrepresentation of our position, that our concern has exclusively been with the general health and scope of the library collection.

I would appreciate this clarification because it is apparent that we have a long discussion ahead of us on this matter, and I would hate for our (the NWU’s) position in the official record to be tainted by the suggestion that we have such a parochial concern.

Indeed, we are a bit surprised that the primary point made in our letter — that the PCPL is a bottom-tier library in terms of per capita print materials — didn’t elicit at least some concern. In light of this we will, in the coming months, be developing our position more fully before addressing it to the Board once again.

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
National Writers Union
(UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
Tucson Unit

*****

DATE: March 7, 2011
TO: Library Advisory Board, Pima County Public Library
FROM: Nancy Ledeboer, Library Director
SUBJECT: DIRECTOR’S REPORT, February 2011

(excerpt)

…I received correspondence from the Tucson Writer’s Society [EDITOR’S NOTE: The Library Director means to say “National Writers Union” – GE]. Previously the group sent a letter to the members of the Board expressing concerns about what they considered to be an aggressive weeding practice. The group spokesperson, Greg Evans, asked me to clarify my comments from the last meeting. The minutes of the board meeting include my comment that the members of the Tucson Writer’s Society [sic] were upset because books by their members had been weeded from the collection. Mr. Evans stated that they are more concerned about the general lack of depth in the collection and the fact that the Pima County Library has fewer books per capita than other libraries. I apologized to Mr. Evans for my misunderstanding and indicated that I would clarify this with the Board…

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Tucson Weekly Logo

July 5, 2012 (Print Edition)

Guest Commentary

The Pima County Public Library must stop getting rid of our books

By Greg Evans

Greg Evans, a writer and translator, is on the steering committee of the Tucson unit of the National Writers Union (Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers).

The Pima County Public Library deserves much praise for the access to meeting rooms and Internet terminals that it offers the public, not to mention the many literary and educational events that it hosts.

Sadly, however, it is not so deserving of praise in regard to its book collection—that mainstay of a library.

According to a 2009 survey by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, our library ranks 28th, next to last, in the number of printed materials per resident among the 29 public-library systems that serve populations comparable to that of Pima County. This ranking is especially troubling because our library spends a considerable amount of money to buy books. In fact, in the same survey, our library ranked 16th in the amount of money spent on printed materials per resident.

How is it that a library that’s in the middle of the pack when it comes to purchasing books manages to be next to last when it comes to the size of its collection? The answer is simple: It has an aggressive policy of discarding its books.

This policy is apparent in the library’s “weeding guidelines” (yes, that’s what they call it) for discarding adult and teen fiction. According to these guidelines, a novel should be kept in the collection for a maximum of five years, and short-story collections “of famous American and European writers” should only be kept “as long as there are school assignments or general interest in your community.” Indeed, even classics are subject to removal if there isn’t enough popular demand. Such a discard policy may make for great PCPL book sales (we can all buy recent, quality titles by well-known authors for a dollar or two), but it hardly helps our library build a decent collection.

Why our library should pursue such a self-destructive policy is a mystery to me. It would seem to go against the spirit and letter of the library’s mission statement, which says our library should be “a destination and place of discovery that provides abundant print materials.” Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of how our library having fewer books in such subject areas as Chinese trade, solar-panel technology and commercial graphic arts can benefit us economically, any more than having fewer books on how to deal with a diagnosis of cancer can benefit us in regard to our health. And it hardly helps our claim to be a center of culture when our library’s collection is similarly weak in the areas of literature and the arts.

However, when the National Writers Union, of which I am a member, brought this matter before the Library Board last year (the Library Board, whose members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors, is supposed to advise the library director), the current policy was enthusiastically reaffirmed. But the reasons we were offered, both by the board and then-library director Nancy Ledeboer, don’t make any sense to us. One reason offered was that the PCPL lacked shelf space to retain more books. If this were the case, why are many of the existing shelves in our libraries half-empty? And why did the library recently replace all of its six-shelf units on the second and third floors of the main branch with three-shelf units?

It was also suggested to us that e-books might solve the problem. But e-books, far from being a panacea, may well prove, because of licensing restrictions, to be more difficult and expensive for a library to maintain than paper books.

Pima County deserves a better public library than one that ranks next to last in the number of books per resident. This is especially true when the taxpayers have already paid for books that, if they were kept instead of discarded, would allow our library to have a book collection more representative of the culturally rich and diverse city that Tucson is.

*****

From: NWU Tucson <nwutucson@yahoo.com>
To: Melinda.Cervantes@pima.gov
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:19 PM
Subject: PCPL discard policy and Weekly Op/Ed

Dear Ms. Cervantes,

You might have noticed that I, representing the National Writers Union, had a piece about the PCPL in last week’s Weekly. If you had a chance to read it, you will have noticed that we have serious issues with the size of the library’s collection and its discard policy. Since you are new to PCPL (and, by the way, congratulations on your appointment), we would like to fill you in regarding the background of this op/ed piece.

We did attempt to have a dialogue with the PCPL on this issue, culminating in us sending a letter (please see below) to Ms. Ledeboer and the Library Board members. In PCPL’s response to us, however, we were treated to the spectacle of the Library Director seriously misrepresenting our position by stating that our primary complaint was that our members’ books weren’t in the library’s collection – we, in fact, had never even mentioned this in any of our correspondence with the library as it is not an issue for us.

The Library Board then enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed the current collections policy, and that was that. Our concerns about the library having a bottom tier collection had been dismissed out of hand.

Obviously, we weren’t very happy about this and have since taken our campaign public. We are, however, curious and even a bit hopeful that perhaps there could be, with your leadership, a new approach to the library’s collection policy.

And so we hopefully ask, should we have any hope in this regard? Is a serious appraisal to the current library collection’s policy possible, one that would allow us (consummate with the number of books that PCPL actually purchases) to at least have a mid-tier per capita collection of printed materials?

Sincerely,

Greg Evans

National Writers Union

[no direct response to this email was sent, the following was printed in the Tucson Weekly on August 2, 2012]

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Tucson Weekly Logo

August 2, 2012 (Print Edition)

Library Response: We’re Following Industry Standards, and We’re Circulating More Items

Dear Mr. Greg Evans: I would like to respond to the concerns you expressed in your recent email and your guest-opinion piece in the Tucson Weekly.

As part of our regular collection-management program, the Pima County Public Library reviews the collection annually in order to ensure that our collections respond to what our customers need.

Deselection of materials is taken seriously, and is a long-standing practice. The guidelines we follow are the industry standard. As a result of this process, we are making room on the shelves for high-demand and popular books and materials in other formats. In 2006, customers checked out or renewed more than 6.2 million items from our library. In 2010, circulation increased to more than 7.5 million items. We are currently in the process of reviewing the deselection guidelines and will consider your suggestion to increase the acquisition of mid-tier authors’ works.

Demand for electronic resources is increasing, as is demand for physical space in our libraries, where access to job-help resources, online and in-library homework assistance, literacy tutoring, and public computers is increasing. In addition, seating for customers using wireless, in-house collections and meeting rooms is at an all-time high.

While the Pima County Public Library is not a research library that has the capacity to house materials for several years, we make every effort to obtain the titles that are requested by our customers. We do offer interlibrary loan services for items not available in our collections, following the “just in time” rather than the “just in case” approach to collection development and management. If you or anyone in the community would like to see specific titles in our collection, please contact the library or submit recommendations using the online suggestion process, “Can’t Find It?,” at librarycatalog.pima.gov/screens/ill.html.

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, and I hope that I have addressed your concerns.

Melinda S. Cervantes, Executive director, Pima County Public Library

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Tucson Weekly Logo

August 23, 2012 (Print Edition)

Mailbag

The Question Remains: Why Discard So Many Library Books?

Though I appreciate Melinda Cervantes (Mailbag, Aug. 2) taking the time to respond to my Guest Commentary (July 5), she doesn’t answer the basic question I was asking. Namely: Why is it that our library is next to last in the number of books it has per resident (among 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 rationalizing the library’s aggressive discard policy will explain to me why the library doesn’t keep the many relevant and contemporary titles that it currently discards.

Greg Evans

*****

[NOTE: From the “Talk” section of the Pima County Public Library’s entry in Wikipedia in the wake of the user “PCPL” – who had in the previous years largely set up and maintained the entry – eliminating, among other things, the “Controversies” section of the entry, which had a link to the NWU’s Op-Ed about the PCPL that appeared in the Tucson Weekly – GE]

Wikipedia logo

Talk:Pima County Public Library

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The changes made to this entry on December 5 and 6, 2012, are too extreme by far, as they have eliminated virtually the entirety of the previous entry. Further, this has been done without any comment or “Talk” to explain the reasons for the move. I assume, since the user was signed in as “PCPL”, that it is somebody from the library. If it is, they should be made aware that this does not give them authority to make such changes on Wikipedia; if fact, rather the opposite, especially when it is a question of removing the “controversies” section, which they did as well. If some explanation is not given for these changes, and soon, I will shortly undo them. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 144.90.45.235 (talk) 21:09, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

A NOTE REGARDING REVERSION TO PREVIOUS EDIT: I have undone the changes that were made December 5-6, 2012, because they eliminate much information (history, timeline, etc.) about the library without giving any reason for it, much less any good reason. I’m assuming that the user who did it, “PCPL,” is an employee of Pima County Public Library (PCPL). If so, you should know that a Wikipedia entry is not the same as the website for the library, it is simply not possible to arbitrarily and entirely change the content of an entry without good reason being offered. This is especially true in terms of content (“Controversies”) that might be critical of the library. Given that this controversy was reported on in major Tucson media, why was it also removed? Please try to incorporate edits within the existing structure and format of the article, unless you can offer a good reason to change or eliminate them.

Finally, what content you do post must be factual and neutral, like an encyclopedia entry, and what you put in there reads like PR copy: “The Pima County Public Library (PCPL), which is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, enriches lives and builds community through opportunities to learn, know, interact and grow.” 4.240.108.161 (talk) 01:43, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

*****

January 8, 2013

Melinda Cervantes
Library Director
Pima County Public Library
101 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701

Dear Ms. Cervantes:

I hope you are doing well in the new year. I am writing because we at the National Writers Union have continuing concerns regarding the collection at Pima County Public Library, and the policy that governs it. In this regard I have a few additional questions that I would appreciate you answering.

The first is when and where was it decided upon, and by whom, that PCPL would be a system-wide “popular” library. As this term has been repeatedly mentioned to us when we have challenged the PCPL’s collection development policy, we would also be interested to know if this policy, and the rationale behind it, is actually spelled out somewhere in the public record (as it would seem to us to contradict the spirit, and even the letter, of PCPL’s mission statement).

Secondly, we would appreciate it if you could direct us to examples in the body of specialist literature where the concept of a system-wide popular library is articulated and justified. I am familiar with “popular” libraries in other public library systems, but these are typified by the arrangement at the downtown branch of the Chicago Public Library. There, the popular library is located on the first floor of the main branch and is designed for quick in and out access for the patrons and so contains reserve items, some of the most popular books, CDs and DVDs, and has an open, uncluttered look (e.g., three shelf units). However, on the eight floors above the popular library floor there is a heavy concentration of books, each floor featuring row after row of six shelf units full of books. Thus, the “popular” library is a small portion of the overall library system in Chicago.

In short, expanding the popular library concept to the whole of a library system as large as ours seems a radical concept to us and we would be interested to know of other examples of this practice and what their theoretical justification is in the specialist literature.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Greg Evans
Membership Chair
National Writers Union – Tucson Unit

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Scan of letter from Director of Library

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The Investigators

Apr 7, 2014 12:39 PM by Lupita Murillo and Michel Marizco

N4T Investigators: Pima County libraries losing inventory

Pima County spends about $750,000 on security for its 27 libraries in Tucson. But as the News 4 Tucson Investigators have found, that security is for the safety of staff and patrons. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory is going missing from the libraries and nobody seems to know why.

County records show that about 34,826 items are missing from the library. That includes 18,317 DVDs, 13,218 books and 2,201 cds; all totaling $727,180.63

Where does that inventory go? The county library staff has some ideas but nobody seems to know for sure.

“One reason is we simply make a mistake when we’re shelving or a customer could mis-shelve and if something is even this far away from where it’s supposed to be, we can’t find it so we mark it missing,” said deputy director Karyn Prechtel.

She says another reason for losses is patrons who simply forget to turn in their books. But the library staff doesn’t track who is stealing material from the libraries.

Over a two year period between 2012 and March 1, 2014, the library submitted 11,838 accounts to collection agencies.

“That is a lot of people,” Prechtel said. “Unfortunately people sometimes check out materials and then move out of the county and then forget to return them. Sometimes people just don’t return their items and we do look for those, we do go after them to try and get them back.”

As for stealing, the library has no records of requesting prosecution for people accused of theft.
Inventory used to be marked with radio frequency identification devices, RFID chips. But those are expensive too. Those little stickers cost 50 cents each.

“My understanding is that a cost benefit analysis was done and it’s quite expensive to keep maintaining a security system. Those RFID tags, they’re costly, and the staff time involved in adhering them to the materials is costly,” Prechtel said.

Last fiscal year, people visited the library 5.7 million times and library administrators say the number of lost items is comparable to other counties across the country.

But some patrons wonder at the lack of security for the inventory. Greg Evans is a critic of some of the libraries policies.

“Even after working in one and being a patron in many of them, i’ve often been surprised at how few security measures they have,” Evans said.

He argues the library makes it easy for thieves to re-sell its books because much of the inventory isn’t marked.

“There’s nothing stamped on it here or on the inside cover or any place else that indicates it’s the property of the pima county public library,” he said, holding up one book.

Prechtel said library administrators check with used book and music stores in Tucson and so far, none have turned up.

Photo by Early Novels Database (from Flickr.com). Creative Commons License.

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