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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    MLA: Not an original thought...

    Where America leads, it seems, we are bound to follow.

    I know it is a while since Tim Coates published and publicised Yinnon Ezra, board member of the MLA and head of leisure services in Hampshire, who publicly questioned the need for fiction in public libraries

    "we have to ask whether fiction should remain in libraries when most people buy books"..... he is quoted in the Portsmouth News
    but TeleRead has uncovered a possible source for that thought. In the 19th century it was relatively unusual for libraries to offer fiction; indeed, libraries were debating the issue in the 1890s:

    William Stevenson, the head librarian for the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, went to great lengths to remove popular fiction titles from his library.

    “It is certainly not the function of the public library to foster the mind-weakening habit of novel-reading among the very classes—the uneducated, busy or idle—whom it is the duty of the public library to lift to a higher plane of thinking,” he said.

    Although most thinking has moved on since then to accept reader choice and the value of leisure reading, Yinnon Ezra is not the only one to question its worth in libraries. In American Libraries, David Isaacson
    “question[s] the argument that libraries should go out of their way to acquire romance novels, thrillers, and other kinds of literature whose primary purpose is escape and titillation.”
    So, we seem not to have moved forward at all in the library world. And history has provided us with a perfect excuse for the public library crisis: buying books for the masses to read is just plain bad for them!

    "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too" (Voltaire)

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