Friday, March 16, 2018

Literature and Bart Simpson


I found myself walking behind this guy on my way home from work yesterday. People make the strangest fashion choices.

I'm enjoying my alone time at home with the dog. It would be better if the house weren't still a wreck, but the painters are making progress. The kitchen is mostly done, the bathroom needs one more coat, the entrance hall is mostly done except for all the trim, and the living room is done. So now it's just a matter of the small hallway in the middle of the house, plus that trim and the extra coat in the bathroom. I think they may finish up today.

I haven't tried to put anything back in order. I'll wait until they're done with everything and then do it all at once.

One unfortunate side effect of the bright new paint -- it makes the kitchen cabinets look terrible. I need to do some serious cleaning in that kitchen.

Meanwhile, as I said yesterday, Olga and I are living in the midst of a garage sale, with everything crowded into the two rooms that are not being painted:



I'm not complaining. The place will look so much better when this is all done.

The magazine people finally came and collected all our donated magazines from the library, and I worked yesterday to weed more of the fiction shelves. So here's a question -- Samuel Richardson, the 18th century novelist, penned two multi-volume works, one called "Pamela" (2 volumes) and one called "Clarissa" (4 volumes). We have both, and neither has been checked out for about 15 years. Do you think it would be library heresy to take "Clarissa" off the shelves and just leave "Pamela," which is the better-known work? Are we obligated, as a library, to make all the classics available, or is it better to free up shelf space for books that are going to be more actively read?

I faced the same question with "The Mysteries of Udolfo," a classic gothic novel I hadn't heard of at all. We have a copy but it's never been checked out. Apparently it was influential to Jane Austen (whose novels do get read) but do we really need it?

I know this probably sounds horrible, given that we are a school library, but the reality is, shelf space is valuable and most of our reading patrons are middle schoolers. (The high schoolers check out far fewer books.) As I write this and think more about it, I'm leaning toward keeping them as foundational works of literature, but it's an interesting question.

13 comments:

Sabine said...

I worked in a science library for a while and as scientific books tend to become outdated by new research we struggled with the same problem. Obviously the author at the time had something to say regardless of the future (dis)interest and there is the obligation in a historic context etc. We usually checked whether a title was available in "bigger" library collection locally or with access to a library loan scheme and if so kept a reference should anybody ever need to find it and happily chucked out our copy.

Colette said...

That IS a difficult decision. Any possibility of offering the kids electronic access to some of the lesser known classics? Digitizing books seems to be what many libraries are doing to solve their space problems.

ellen abbott said...

seems to me if they have never been checked out in 15 years then... and what Sabine said, if there is a copy in a nearby library that can be borrowed then get rid of it. the library here reciprocates with the two closest libraries and I've even had them get a book for me from the Houston library though it cost me a dollar.

Red said...

Living in an upset house can be a little stressful. You just have to think how much better it will be because it was painted.

robin andrea said...

I've read the comments here and you've gotten great advice about the books. I'm looking forward to seeing photos of the house put back together after the painters are done.

Sharon said...

It is a bit stressful to go through all that chaos at home. I'm sure you will be very happy when it's done.
That photo of the guy with the jacket made me laugh. I've thought the same thing about clothing choice many times.

37paddington said...

It's a fascinating question indeed, one I would not want to have to answer. I have enough trouble putting out books I will never read again from my home, because, as you say, space is not limitless. Perhaps, whatever people's opinions, there is no wrong decision here.

Catalyst said...

Do you have backroom storage space? If so, I'd remove them to that area but I wouldn't get rid of them. Does your home smell freshly painted?

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Garage sale? I will give you a buck for the two bottles on your sideboard. As for the library issue, you are meant to be serving teenagers and so the books on your shelves should reflect their interests, preferences and abilities. "Pamela" and "Clarissa" would be much better off on the shelves of a university library. Their very presence suggest some kind of ivory tower thinking which could be quite off-putting for lots of teenagers.

jenny_o said...

The two tones on the living room walls are very nice. It will be such a good feeling to have it finished and everything put back, speaking from our experience anyway.

I'd make a terrible book weeder for a library because I'd want to toss out everything I wasn't personally interested in, such as gothic novels! But I agree with Yorkshire Pudding that a student library would serve its users better if it catered to their tastes and abilities. Surely those unread books can be found in another library if they are ever needed. Would it be worth checking the nearest public library to see if they already have copies or would like a donation? (which I can't really imagine)

Allison said...

I read Pamela in college, being an English minor. Our professor was able to explain the archaic references and make it interesting, but if he hadn't been there it would have been a tough read. I can't see teenagers making it through that style of writing.

e said...

You need help from a qualified Young Adult librarian. Let me know and I'll see if I can find someone.

Steve Reed said...

Sabine: Yeah, we face that problem ourselves with some of our non-fiction. I think that's a good way to handle it. As my boss says, "We are not an archive." In other words, we can't keep things for the sake of history -- we need to focus on what the kids find most useful.

Colette: Absolutely! There's actually an online site called Project Gutenberg that gives free access to many classic works that are out of copyright. "Clarissa" is among them!

Ellen: I'm sure there's a way to get a copy through libraries in London. Heck, you could probably buy a copy online for £5.

Red: Exactly! I am looking toward the future!

Robin: I'll do my best to get some decent pictures, but it's surprisingly hard to photograph an interior -- at least with the lenses I've got.

Sharon: Isn't it bizarre? What on earth motivated him to buy that jacket?!

37P: Well, I suppose it helps to remind myself that it's not like we have THE ONLY COPY in the world. These books are easily accessible elsewhere.

Catalyst: We do put some things in the back conference room, which has glass bookcases. They're mainly for decoration, but I am trying to make a list of what's back there just so we can go to that source if need be. Lots of classics! That may become Clarissa's new home!

YP: I don't need a buck. I need a quid! I agree about the books -- I think they're misplaced where they are.

Jenny-O: I have the same problem. I find myself responding negatively to some books, and my impulse is to toss them -- but then I see that they're getting borrowed, which means SOMEONE likes them. And then they stay.

Allison: I'm impressed that you've read it! When I first saw it on the shelves, several years ago when I got this job, I thought I might tackle it sometime. But I'm beginning to think that sometime will never come. LOL!

E: I work with at least three qualified YA librarians -- and I seek their advice constantly. So never fear -- I am not making these decisions all by my inexperienced self! Thanks for the offer, though.