In a piece that will send cultural alarm bells ringing through library systems everywhere, The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein writes that “in the effort to stay relevant in an age in which reference materials and novels can be found on the Internet and Oprah’s Book Club helps set standards of popularity, libraries are not the cultural repositories they once were.”
That’s not the hook of the piece. The hook is more topical and, in this case, the hook is in the headline: “Hello, Grisham — So Long, Hemingway?” The gist is that, with shelf space at a premium, libraries are culling books that don’t see much action. In the article, the situation is viewed through the lens of Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Library system, but a quote from the president of the American Library Association indicates it may be the new library reality.
“I think the days of libraries saying, ‘We must have that, because it’s good for people,’ are beyond us,” said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association and director of Princeton Public Library. “There is a sense in many public libraries that popular materials are what most of our communities desire. Everybody’s got a favorite book they’re trying to promote.”
Back in Fairfax, a lot of perennial favorites are currently on the chopping block of some of the branches in the system, including Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway and many, many others. The complete list — and the Post’s piece — are here.