A Different Reading | Letters | Chicago Reader

A Different Reading 

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In reference to a recent interview with disenfranchised librarians ["Reading Is Incidental," November 15] and recent editorial reply [Letters, November 22]:

I will try to be brief.

We've had numerous commissioners over the past 20-plus years that I have been a librarian for CPL. Mary Dempsey, though not without political ambition, has at least pursued her job with gusto, and Mayor Daley has likewise provided support for libraries. Before Dempsey's time CPL was run by self-interest and neglect. Magazine subscriptions, though somewhat uniform, are portioned out in a more equal fashion than in the past. More centralized ordering is likely more efficient. There are core books which every library should own. Budgets were neglected by acquisitions and librarians in the past--librarians either over- or underspent for various reasons.

Each library receives a budget for books on which they are allowed to freely choose the titles of their choice. I have never had a title request rejected in over 20 years--it has only been format that has been controlled. Do we have money enough to buy popular videos, CD-ROMs, music, etc?

HWLC is not a research library. There are some busy departments and decent collections; however, NYPL it ain't. Sulzer Regional, at one-eighth HWLC's size, is close to HWLC in circulation with far fewer staff members and longer hours.

At least one individual in your interview has other axes to grind and in my opinion is of questionable character.

A new computer services department head was hired this year, and frankly, deserves twice whatever he is earning. Since the most recent rollout, over four months ago, my agency has not experienced one call on the new machines. I've sat at meetings with Karim Adib, the CS head, and he has as many ideas if not more than those around the table about potential benefits of technology in libraries. He is technically adept and has a plan. Automation has provided many important services that many librarians have ignored. Our books are better utilized--books spend less time on our shelves. They are shared throughout the city and find their way to users in record time (average time is about one week now compared to six in the 80s). CPL also provides its users a multitude of fee-based databases--a research project can often be completed from home or a nearby branch. I can't imagine that patrons enjoyed being sent to the library to use Readers' Guide, only to be told that the journal is on fiche downtown. I've had patrons come straight from the doctor's office. Databases are updated weekly and often in full text format. Medical information in printed form is often outdated before it is published.

I'm not saying that AFSCME shouldn't challenge the city department of personnel over certain changes. I personally think that the new libraries (especially the two-story variety) are poorly designed with a lot of wasted space. I've watched many of CPL's librarians come kicking and screaming into the computer age. Our job is managing information and teaching people how to use it, not warehousing books. Why would we want to get away from information? I don't want to become a dusty relic.

A Librarian and Branch Manager With Over 25 Years' Experience in Three Major Cities

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