Hello, Grisham, So Long, Hemingway?

Limited shelf space has forced librarians in suburban Virginia to make choices in their collections. According to this Washington Post article, "Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax 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 real shame is that the public library is closing off their collection of physical books, and not substituting it with electronic resources. Many of the classic books of English and American literature are available electronically through Project Gutenburg, the Library of Congress, UPenn Library, and many other free resources.
      But the patrons have to know about these services and copies of books exist in order to find them, and few libraries will put the catalog information for these ascii and .pdf files in their OPAC. Every library gets overwhelmed with requests for the same books at the same time, especially during Black History Month, holidays or special events. Yet how many libraries show in their OPAC that many classic materials are available for free from PURLS across the country and across the world.
        The books are removed from the inventory to save space, but many of these books should still be offered for immediate access to the library patrons from the OPAC with a hotlink.
        Of course not all classics are available. But enough are, especially of books with frequent circulation and frequent demand, to make this a part of the library's cataloging outreach. Regretfully, this library outreach falls woefully short in too many libraries.

I know that many public libraries are crunched for space, but I find it very disturbing that the librarians are weeding out classics. Even if they are not circulated, they should remain on the shelves or at the very least, in an easily accessible storage area by staff. People still do read the "classics" for fun (well, maybe not in Fairfax, but in many places they still do). Children also still receive school assignments where they are required to read a classic piece of literature. Every library should have a core collection of classics--major works by major authors from various time periods. Just my two cents on this.

Unfortunately, the article is a bit misleading. I looked at the online catalogue for Fairfax County, and they will still have all of these items in most of their library branches. I imagine the branches that don't have The Sun Also Rises will be able to get it through a loan from another Fairfax County library (I'm guessing...I work for another public library system Northern Virginia).I like the suggestion of adding in url links within an OPAC so users can find free online versions of classic texts. So far as I know, it's not something available through any OPAC system, but perhaps in a future version.

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