Feedback: Letters to LJ, September 15, 2017 Issue

Fireworks redux, earthquake operations, consequences matter, and more letters to the editor from the September 15, 2017 issue of Library Journal.

“IMLS is a linchpin in the government’s plan to provide all of its citizens with a level playing field in literacy, education, and stronger, united communities”

Advocates on fire

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) report and your article (Lisa Peet, “OITP’s Report from the Swamp | ALA Annual 2017”) have each ignited a fire among advocates, and, yes, I am a library advocate. Thank you for the 4th of July fireworks all over again. Libraries can and must keep their focus on the importance of our work and its core value to the life of an engaged democracy. IMLS is a linchpin in the federal government’s plan to provide all of its citizens with a level playing field in literacy, education, and stronger, united communities.

—Chris Rogers, Middle Tyger Libn., Spartanburg Cty. PLs, Lyman, SC

Career starter

I became a librarian because as an English major the only place I wanted to work while I was an undergrad was in the campus library (John Berry, “Hiring Is Recruiting”). I was thankfully hired as a student worker in circulation. I didn’t know at that point which career I wanted to pursue or anything about becoming a librarian. When they moved the reference desk to the same desk as the print desk that I worked sometimes, I started talking to each of the librarians while we [worked side by side]. This led me to learning about what a reference librarian did and how to become one. It has been ten years since I was hired as a student worker, and I’m now in a job I love as a reference librarian at a joint use community college/­public library. Student, part-time, and staff positions can be great ways to start a career in librarianship.

—Rachel Renick, Reference Libn., Lone Star Coll.–CyFair, Cypress, TX

Opportunity quake

A wonderful accidental (literally) opportunity came my way in the first month of my second directorship (­Steven Bell, “What Not To Do: Tips for New Library Leaders”). An earthquake closed the campus. Engineers assessed damage, and we resumed operation the next morning. I met with several staff and planned an all-hands effort to reshelve the several thousand books that the tremor had knocked to the floor. It was a great opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with my new colleagues. One of them, in an oblique comment about my predecessors, said, “I didn’t know library directors shelve books!”

When a senior administrator came in the afternoon to see the effect of the quake, there was nothing for him to see—we had taken care of everything. So, early on, look for an opportunity (short of a natural disaster) to demonstrate that you are one of the staff. When I retired this May, some staff recalled that day and what a positive impression my participation made. (I also learned that day how much the collection needed some serious weeding.)

—Jim Rettig, Univ. Lib. Dir. (retired), ­Williamsburg, VA

Teaching for failure?

It’s all about where you draw the line fairly (Jennifer A. Dixon, “Nashville, Salt Lake City, Columbus Go Fine-Free”). Collections are meant to be shared by everyone, and there should not be any exceptions in regard to fines or due dates.... Once we start treating someone differently than someone else, problems escalate. Standardization of policy is the easiest answer but goes against the grain of what libraries are all about. A conundrum for sure.

My question is this: It’s nice for the town or city to increase its budget, but how much of that increase goes to the library to make up for the lost monies collected from fines? Unless I missed it, the article doesn’t say. Some libraries rely on fines to make up for cuts in the budget.

Access is not the issue. I don’t know of a public library where you cannot gain entry because your card is blocked. A patron may not be able to use certain services, but the print collection, at least, is available for use on-site.

Finally, library fines are punitive for a reason. What kind of message are we sending our children when we say, “Have it back by this date but not really.” There are no consequences until it’s lost. In this ADHD world, that’s a recipe for disaster. We are not teaching our children self-reliance or responsibility and in essence helping to set them up for failure as adults.

—Kevin MacKenzie, Westfield, MA


The starred review of Jason ­Fagone’s The Woman Who Smashed Codes (LJ 8/17, p. 103) lists the publisher as Harper. In fact, the HarperCollins imprint Dey Street is releasing the September title. LJ apologizes for the error.

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