Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Who Reads Anyway?
I have just read an article detailing how literary classics are disappearing from library shelves around the country. They've been culled. Since no one was reading them, the librarians decided to remove them from the shelves. According to the article, in one county, thousands of novels were eliminated after a new computer software program showed that they hadn't been checked out within the last two years.
According to this Washington Post article by Lisa Rein, "Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax [County ] is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics."
The article continues: "We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost.
Classics such as Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" are among the titles that haven't been checked out in two years and could be eliminated, although some librarians have so far decided to keep them."
Nothing makes me feel more mortal than this. Nothing makes me want to stop writing more than this.
Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe we need those forty feet. However it hurts to think of all the great literature that will go the way of the dodo. That already has evaporated in favor of DVD and CD.
I know this is pointless, but here's something I plan on doing. My own little gesture. I'm taking out books. When I go to the library next, I'm taking out a minimum of five books, and at least two of those will be classic works of literature to preserve.
Otherwise the fire trucks will be coming to burn the books, not to put the fires out.