This part of a library officer’s work will go with electronic tagging of all items being introduced: Felicity Thorne at the circulation desk this week. In the background, visitors use the internet and computer services, one of the ways libraries have changed over the years.
UPDATE, June 4,2012, 4.15pm: Reader comment that up to a quarter of the Public Library’s current holdings has been “weeded” is firmly rejected by Manager of Library Services, Georgina Davison. “No way!” she says, and reiterates that there is no target figure.
The cull is larger than normal in the lead-up to the introduction of electronic tagging and because it has not been done for a while. She says if shelves look a little empty it is because library staff are waiting for the electronic tagging before putting out new items.
New items are ordered all the time and are reported on in the monthly update to the Town Council. One recent month saw 1200 new items arrive; another, 700.
Ms Davision says there is no reduction to the budget for acquisitions.
She says staff shortages can cause delays, for instance in repairing items such as the spiral bound and laminated books in the Akaltye Antheme Collection (“a local knowledge collection intended to give the whole community an insight into contemporary Indigenous issues while addressing appropriately the needs of Indigenous family groups and individuals using the library”). These books get a lot of use and will not be “weeded”. Videos in this collection are also being transferred to DVD but again staff shortages has held this up.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Work at the town’s Public Library is a matter of renewal, not significant change, says the Town Council’s Director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Catchlove. Redevelopment of the library is a long-term high cost item in the council’s Municipal Plan but to date, council has not been successful in obtaining funds, despite a number of applications. So instead of a $22m new library, the town is getting a $240,000 refreshed library.
Part of this modest overhaul involves moving the front entrance to the garden facing the river, certainly more attractive than the current ‘tradesmen’s’ entrance that takes library visitors straight past the toilets.
In line with its “percent for art” policy when it undertakes capital works, council will commission a concept plan for the new entrance and garden area, ahead of applying for funds to commission substantial public art work.
Perhaps of more interest to library users is what will happen inside. The library’s holdings are currently being “weeded”, always a bit of a worry for booklovers. Will they throw out that precious book that you don’t even know you want to read yet but in years to come will be delighted to find on the shelves? Well, maybe.
Manager of Library Services, Georgina Davison, says all libraries undertake weeding and it is well overdue at the Alice Springs library. She can’t put a figure on exactly how many holdings the library has – it’s somewhere between 46,500 and 49,000; nor can she put a number of how many items will go. She says there is “no target figure”. The cull is “very methodical”, based on the items being out of date or seldom used (criteria which would seem to allow a fair bit of leeway). The Alice Springs Collection is exempt from the cull.
Getting rid of old holdings is the only way to create space for new acquisitions, she says. Off-site storage would be expensive and impractical as the library can always order specific titles through other libraries.
Is there a danger of the library moving towards a lowest common denominator collection? Not at all, she says. Popular taste is only one criterion for acquisitions. The library understands that Alice Springs is a unique place and its readers have very varied interests, which the library endeavours to “understand and nurture”. She says the library is open to customer suggestions for acquisitions: “We can’t hold everything but if there’s a gap, we try to fill it.”
The weeding is being done ahead of the introduction of electronic tagging for all items, so that borrowers will be able to self-serve (just like at the supermarket). Ms Davison denies that the new technology is a motivation for reducing the holdings but “it would be a waste of time and money” if items were tagged and then deleted.
Self-service borrowing means that the large circulation desk will go and shelving will be reorganised, creating a little more room, including better areas for people who like a quiet place to read.
Mr Catchlove says the core business of the library remains “books and reading” and there are no plans to turn the library into a community centre by subterfuge.
However, the library does run a busy program of events and it’s not all “storytime”. Its school holiday program included a drumming workshop, for instance. Ms Davison says there are a lot of demands placed on public libraries, they are supposed to offer something for everybody and they are changing: “They are not quiet places anymore.”