Value for Everyone

I’ll be using this example and article in classes. Jessamyn hits the nail on the head:

“Well, at least they’re reading..”

That line comes from this article in the Journal-Sentinal Online with the fairly typical headline Libraries’ many benefits rediscovered in hard economic times. Good, right?

I was enjoying reading about it until I hit these lines…

Library directors report circulation spikes for last month of about 10% when compared with December 2007. “Escapism,” was Waukesha library director Jane Ameel’s concise speculation on the re-emergence of libraries’ attraction. “I wish we were giving them David Copperfield, but so much of our business is in CDs and entertainment,” she said. 

Do you see where I’m going with this? This library director seems disappointed that people are going to the library to feel better and interact with materials that they enjoy. I’m disappointed because when I read that sentence I feel that the library director values Copperfield-reading patrons more than she values music-listening patrons. I’m sure she talked to the reporter for 45 minutes and that’s just what he decided to pull out of the discussion. And yet, I think we should be careful with how we talk about what we do.

Who decides what’s of value to library users? Materials – all kinds – are “for use” and there are all kinds of folks for all kinds of materials.