Wednesday, 21 March 2012

West Sussex Libraries

Last year West Sussex County Council decided that the libraries should have hardbacks and paperbacks shelved together, albeit categorised as Crime, Thriller, Historic, Romance and the rest.

Although I thought it a bit inconvenient if you only wanted paperbacks, it didn't particularly bother me.  Until…..  my back problem worsened.  For example, instead of taking 6 books and making fewer library visits I am now down to either 2 hardbacks or 4 paperbacks.  This has, of course, got me thinking about the inconvenience for the disabled.

Think about it - standing at an unnatural angle with neck bent sideways to read the title.  If you can only carry a couple of paperbacks it now means standing like that for a longer period of time in order to find books you enjoy.

Last week, to my horror, I discovered that they have compounded the problem by now shelving Crime and Thriller together.  Two different genre and not many people like both.

Ironically on my return home I found the following e-mail - in response to one I wrote several weeks ago:

"Thank you for your recent correspondence with the Library Service, which has been passed to me, as the person with general responsisbility for stock matters,  for reply.
Whilst I quite understand your point, I have to pass some of the blame towards the publishing industry.  These days, in excess of 70% of newly published titles we select for addition to stock are being published in paperback, making paperbacks by far the majority format.  I know for a fact that publishers are now only likely to produce hardbacks where they are guaranteed a large number of sales, and therefore the shift to the volume of paperback publishing is only going to increase.
For this reason, we cannot sustain separate collections within our libraries for the two formats, short of offering an organised arrangement of sturdy books on shelves, and a chaotic collection of variously sized paperbacks on spinners.  I'm sure you can appreciate this creates additional problems for those customers who are looking for particular titles or authors.
So the shift in all 36 West Sussex libraries will be towards interfiling hard- and paperbacks alike, into sequences favoured by the borrowing public (for instance, separate sequences for crime and thriller books), and leaving the promotion of the newest and most popular titles through displays on standalone units or face-on display.
I appreciate this doesn't give you the answer you may have hoped for, but I hope it does go some way in explaining the reasons behind what is happening.
Yours sincerely"

I do hope you noticed the error in this e-mail!  Incidentally, at Rustington and Littlehampton libraries the paperbacks were shelved alphabetically and categorised.

Maybe I'm being paranoid about this, but bearing in mind the number of library closures…..  Is this West Sussex Council's subtle way of discouraging some people from using small libraries so that they can close them down on the basis of under-use?

I will be tweeting this so if you see it, can you please retweet.  We have to fight against library closures.

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