In Defense of Readers

(This blog will mostly focus on academic library issues, but as I am also an avid public library user, I have a great interest in how trends in public libraries affect my life.)

Comments on articles like The Next Time Someone Says the Internet Killed Reading Books, Show Them This Chart make me cringe. And then they take me back to the great 1980s Library Journal debate on collection management — how much of our collections should be what they want versus what we think they should want.

I have a confession to make: I am a librarian at a major research university (and have a slew of other academic credentials, if that one doesn’t work for you), and I read romance novels. It’s not all I read (my last five books are one mystery, one romance, one writing, one sports, and one web design — all but one of these books came from the public library), but I do read them, and I enjoy them. It’s not that I can’t or won’t read the “good stuff” — I can and I do — but that’s not always what I feel like reading, and that is OK.

I am a reader. I read a lot, both in quantity and variety. And it’s not fiscally possible for me to buy everything I read. And so, I look to the libraries in my life to fill this need and expect them to own a large percentage of the books I wish to read.

My academic library maintains a small collection of books primarily for recreational reading and collects many of the more popular works for our permanent collection. (Little makes me happier than seeing our full collection of Jennifer Weiner novels in the stacks.) I don’t expect us to have everything, and the public library collection is often the perfect complement for those of us looking for more variety. It is there I find books on sports, technology trends, and freelance writing, plus most of my fiction reading (romance and otherwise).

Like bestsellers (my most intense hold lists have been Mockingjay and The Marriage Plot), these books circulate. They get people reading. People on the train, people on the subway, people you wouldn’t expect to see break out a book, and it’s because the library has made it possible for them to read something they ENJOY — whether it is so-called fine literature or not. That is serving one’s community.

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