Woman brings library to book

Odd little story from newsshopper.co.uk on Marianne Bick, who says her library refused a gift of 104 books merely because putting them on the system would be too much work.
One of the librarians told her it would be too much work to catalogue them.

"I was, therefore, gobsmacked when I was told by the librarian they did not want books given by the public because it was too much work to put the books on the system."


Any catalogers out there who would like to volunteer?

Let's face the truth: Gifts to libraries, for 99 percent of donations, are more trouble than they're worth. The vast majority of "gifts" are junk -- that have, for the most part, been left lying unread for years until someone dies and the house needs to be cleared.The only reason that most libraries take gifts is for the public relations value and the potential that. somewhere down the road, someone might leave them something they could actually use -- like money.What libraries should do, rather than dealing with gift books, is encourage monetary donations that can be used for purchase of new books -- selected according to some carefully developed criteria.We are doing patrons and libraries no favours by pretending that gift books are some important part of the way we develop the collection. With the exception of specialized/large research libraries who actually do get gifts of valuable and useful books -- usually by carefully cultivating patrons for years -- gift books are a distraction -- most of which, if we were being honest, promptly go to the library book sale or the trash.

The issue illustrates the usual lack of communication among departments, units of our cities' public libraries and with cities' public libraries users/clientele. Communicating effectively how our cities' public libraries work relates to usability. When you are offered books the transaction also relates to the reading interests of users/clientele offering the books. Failures of communication around these transactions include not taking the opportunity to listen to the interests of the people offering books and responding with an offer of routine library services such as readers advisory or reference desk services with respect to what interests users/clientele make known along with the books offered. There is a lack of imagination in the rendering of routine services. There is a lack of imagination in the curricula of library schools. For example, our Boston Public Library Gift Department fails to respond well to public library users/clientele offering books. Gift Department staff respond in that brain dead manner without making clear what books would be of interest. rather than rejecting offers out of hand. The insanity of the bureaucratic response to people is rationalized as it's too much trouble to explain why things are done the way they are done.

If you were not one of their librarians they probably did not want an outsider in their computer system setting up records.

Sure. I volunteered to catalog the collection of science fiction books I wanted to give to my local PL. They still turned them down. I guess they didn't want their shelves sullied with sci-fi (which would explain the utter lack of same in that branch, I suppose). Either that, or they thought my 15+ years of cataloging experience was insufficient to meet their standards.

The policy of accepting, but not promising that books will be added to the collection, is a good one. Ideally, there would be a Friends of the Library group or a Library Gift Shop (becoming more popular these days) that wants to sell these book donations. As we all know, there are a lot of people who would pay good money for certain used books (to Amazon or Alibris for example), and wouldn't it be better if the money went to YOUR LIBRARY????? I know that FOLs can sometimes be problematic, but they usually have their hearts and pocketbooks in the right places.

I absolutely agree with all of you. We aren't the eternal holders of all things paperback that some would like us to be. Unfortunately, gift books aren't free books... I don't think that patrons (or even some library staff) understand that. The cataloging, processing, and repairing can make the cost of a gift book almost the same as a book purchased by the library. It is vitally important that you have a gift policy set in stone and that all staff members are aware of it. Having the policy written down and easily accesible for desk staff would make the process much easier. And we have to remember to be diplomatic. No one wants to be told that their gift isn't good enough and being blunt isn't always the best way to get your point across.

At my library we have a policy of accepting all gifts but we do not make any promises that the gift materials will appear in the collection. We weed our gift books at the branch and central level... which can sometimes cause more problems than if we just refused the gift in the first place.

This news story points out the importance of having brief, written handouts that explain library policy. It's possible that an honest staff member explained one reason for the refusal so directly, but think about it! The LIS-News headline is a bit inflammatory. These books were refused mainly because a librarian judged they would not be useful additions to the collection. Such a decision, announced as "We don't want those," often deeply hurts a giver's feelings. A handout that explains how the library makes decisions about what to buy and what to accept can be very soothing. A handout makes it clear that policy and not a whimsical, personal decision determines what to accept. A library is a place where professional librarians build collections based on thoughtful policies. Since most libraries are physical entities, there are also issues of space limits. If libraries accepted, catalogued, and made available even one hundred gift books a month, over a year that could become over a thousand books. For many libraries this would be far more than the number of books purchased. Accepting all gifts is what the Salvation Army or Good Will does, for good reason, and what libraries, equally for good reason, do not do. That said, it's extremely important to convey refusal as diplomatically as possible, and a written policy handout can help do that.

What if the books suck? We're not a freakin' garage sale!Cataloging costs money.... why spend money cataloging crap nobody wants to make someone feel good? Another thing to think of -- book club editions are NOT THE SAME.Some may argue the differences are not that great..... but tell that to someone who requests a book from a branch for a book ground and its' bowlderized and all the paging is off.Yes, and why not just put cassettes on CD bib records?

I loved this story so much, I sent an e-mail to the news provider, in which I included Cornell's suggestion that for every 100 books donated, the patron include $1,000 to cover the costs of handling the gift.

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