Deirdre Thornton: Libraries & Bookshops

This article is by guest writer Deirdre Thornton.

I harp on about using libraries a bit. This does stem from a moment at Octocon one year where someone complained about the libraries not stocking books they want, and this applies to bookstores as well. I work in a library so a lot of this is from a librarians' perspective.

Bookstores and Libraries have finite space. Unlike the library in the Unseen University we have to keep the stock to the space available. The modern trend in designing libraries is to minimise the storage space along the just in time model.

In fact we're encouraged to have space on our shelves, not packed shelves. For unknown reasons people tend to borrow books when there's space. We're also being encouraged to move from the "Oxfam look" to the "bookshop look"; no it doesn't matter if that's the only copy of Slambash Wangs of a Compo Gormer (actually a real book!) if the cover is faded, the pages manky and more importantly for fiction it hasn't been taken out recently, it's gone. We have to make space for new titles cause they're in demand so the older books have to go. One of the criteria for getting rid of books is condition. The other is whether or not people have taken it out recently.

Places vary for this one, some places are one year, some places longer. Classics don't count and authors that you know have another work in the pipes or that the book is part of a continuing series (and knowing that depends on personal knowledge sometimes) or that that author is popular with your readers and that this particular book is just suffering from a temporary unpopularity. Or in some instances that the author is no longer beloved, they and their audience have died and their books should also go to their grave.

The libraries do try. There's an attempt at keeping fiction in Ireland that's known as the Joint Fiction Reserve, where 13 Authorities try to keep at least one if not 2 books by a particular spread of Authors, its not foolproof but it's a good start. Also the project should keep people in the know as regards availability of books. Chances are, if you can find it there you can request it from your local library in Ireland.

So how is this the same as your bookstore. Take a careful look next time you're browsing the sales racks, those are the books they couldn't get rid of and chances are, are the books they won't stock again, and the authors that they'll stock less of. The demise of small bookshops is where they've lost the customers (and in some instances lost the connection with their customers). I'd hate to see the smaller bookshops go under, mostly because part of the fun of reading is browsing bookshops and it's not as much fun (yet!) online.

Winning a prize for ugly design: Irish Bookshops.

If you don't use your library or bookshop why do you expect it to supply you instead of it's loyal customers, on the other hand if you do support your local bookshop or library and you don't get the service you want, ask or complain. You have the right.

Other articles on by Deirdre Thornton:
Romance and Fantasy (Introduction)

Posted by Drew Shiel at November 18, 2006 7:18 PM

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