Libraries on the Chopping Block: a rebuttal to Horrigan's "Libraries at the Crossroads"

Does the Pew Foundation act in the public interest? The relevance of this venerable institution is rarely questioned. Why? Are we sheep who need the guiding hand of analysts and pollsters. Not surprisingly, the data always "supports" the findings they have lined up for analysis. With a fortune teller's confidence, foundation writers forecast the latest "library trends."  The looming threats of  shrinking funding and creeping irrelevance compete with Promising Technologies to scare us forward into CHANGE!

Pew pollsters see libraries at a crossroads! Every poll, every year, is dedicated to the proposition that libraries must change. "The data paint a complex portrait of disruption and aspiration." Their very words.

As some of the "relatively active constituents who hope libraries will maintain valuable legacy functions such as lending printed books," 25% of us still OPPOSE "moving some print books and stacks out of public locations to free up more space for things such as tech centers, reading rooms, meeting rooms and cultural events." (Moving books out of public locations does not mean throwing books away—mind you—deselecting them faster than librarians can review them. It means storing them for retrieval when they’re needed.)

In the chart we are led to believe that 30% (up from 20% in 2012) SUPPORT the "harmless makeover" that removes books to make space for other things. The latter group welcomes the "dumbing-down." It ignores the harm done to “library browsing,” to “diversity and depth of material” or the host of other elements a rich print collection affords. 30% would not call this a "hostile takeover" of public space, as 25% of patrons do.

The removal (or reduction) of books is well under way, undermining the intellectual integrity of countless libraries. (Some extreme purges receive coverage on major news outlets.) It may be offensive to call this: “dumbing down.” But, at what point, does the reduced variety and depth of subject matter, patron complaints and the denial of requests for public records of the weeding spell: S-T-U-P-I-D? Little libraries, big libraries--all are dumbed down to conform to the makeover agenda.

Each Pew report makes it clear that the PURPOSE OF LIBRARIES has been called into question. But by whom? By those who use them or those who run them, shifting public resources into higher and higher salaries for themselves? The sleight of hand and slight of mind performed by these magicians cannot hide the mismanagement of public funds.