Feedback: Letters to LJ, April 1, 2016 Issue

Writing simply isn't simple, fixing fines, a challenge to ALA members, and more letters to editor from the April 1, 2016 issue of Library Journal.
“Writing simply is not a simple skill. The best scholars can explain complex ideas in an understandable way. [Yet] journal editors [also] work with authors...whose papers are rough around the edges”

Not a simple skill

As a reviewer for several journals, I concur with Steven Bell (In Praise of Jargon: This Academic Librarian Is Not So Sure | From the Bell Tower). Writing simply is not a simple skill. The best scholars can explain complex ideas in an understandable way. I also recommend that journal editors work with authors who have exciting content and new perspectives but whose papers are rough around the edges. These papers have much more value than those whose form is perfect according to the standards of the traditional academic paper but whose content is banal, if not worthless.

As a library science professor, I encouraged my students to write coherent assignments in simple, clear English on important topics. I then offered to work with students who wrote the best research papers to get them published. With some editing and strengthening of content, we were able to get them published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. Not a single one was rejected. Of the 12 papers, two even won awards for being among the top three publications of the year for [that] ­journal.

—Robert P. Holley, SLIS, Wayne State Univ., Detroit

The problem with fines

All libraries, whether they are private, public, or academic, have overdue library materials and delinquent patrons (Rebecca T. Miller, Adversary or Ally?). Practically every library that I have ever worked at has had overdue books and delinquent library patrons or users. Age, race, sex…make no difference since the youngest to the oldest patron has at one time or another checked out something from a library. Now, this is the hard part, even for me: to return the item. Even though we know it is not ours and most of us have good intentions, such as returning that item by the date due, it sometimes does not happen. So, what is the solution for libraries when patrons become delinquent and start creating their private collection using what they have borrowed? I do not have a solution, just some ideas—most of which I have not tried yet, except for amnesty, which most libraries have used.

I recently returned my books to one public library branch in Brooklyn, NY. I owed $5. Sad to say that I am a librarian who owes fines for overdue items. There’s a kiosk to pay your fine, and I inserted a $10 bill hoping to get back my change. The machine had a “no change” warning, which I did not see or read, so my change was added to my account for future overdue fines. That money is still there! I was annoyed at first but then decided that it was OK since I am sure that I will incur more overdue fines. For some, that may be a good incentive—or deterrent, depending upon your point of view. I would like one of those pay-your-fines kiosks at our library. But that still does not solve the problem of patrons not paying overdue fines. A patron has to voluntarily pay their fines. Just as I did!

Collecting overdue fines is an ongoing problem that I am sure libraries will face for years to come, unless someone comes up with a unique, foolproof way of painlessly collecting them.

It is not OK to ignore fines, so the suggestions and ideas included here come from a librarian who is dreaming of the day when overdue fines will no longer be an issue for library users!

—Marie M. Octobre, Assoc. Prof./Libn., Gill Lib., Coll. of New Rochelle, Brooklyn Campus

CLA dissolves

We all hope the American Library Association (ALA) doesn’t go the way of CLA, but many fear weak leadership and internal strife are doing damage to the association (Lisa Peet, Canadian Library Association Votes To Dissolve). Librarians have enough challenges without having to worry that our professional association is going the way of the dinosaur. A challenge to fellow ALA members: go to open meetings on ALA business at conference. We have the right to be there. Pay attention, and speak out when something doesn’t seem right. Ask questions, and expect answers.

—Name withheld

A national voice

All of the participatory democracy takes place in our provincial library organizations, correct (John Berry, The Wrong Umbrella). The only thing that is missing is that national advocacy voice, which is the goal of the new [Canadian] federation.

—Jenny Fry, Surrey, BC

Remember the Alamo

The library belongs to the DRT (Lisa Peet, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Retain Control of Alamo Library Collection—for Now). Why would the State of Texas want to take away something that is so treasured by women? Those early ­settlers who came here were women as [well as] men, and I believe the men would want those women to be treated fairly. Should the state take these records over, they will be lost. Only those who are emotionally connected to this state and love it and its history will care enough to fight to preserve it as time goes by.

—Evelyn Trice, Canyon, TX

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