Thursday, April 13, 2017

Week Fourteen Prompt Response

I don't think it's a problem to keep these collections separate. Where you put these collections and how it's presented to the public are what I think really matters. I believe it would be unethical to put these collections in the back dank dusty corner, poorly labeled in an area that is difficult to find. If you introduce it with an attractive display and highlight the culture and keep in in a spot that is on par with the rest of the collection then it is definitely okay. I know many patrons come to our library in particular wanting to look for books written by an African-American author. "Where are your African-American books?" is usually the exact question we get. Appreciation and demand for African-American literature is something our community at my library deeply cares about, so it would make sense for us to make a special place for it. It's become it's own genre, but can encompass any other genre we're already familiar with. It makes a lot of sense to me to keep all of these together and not spread out among the general collection from an organizing standpoint.

To address the point that it would disrupt a reader from stumbling upon a great book from these areas if they're separate from the general collection - I say maybe, if you're browsing independently. However, if these collections are given proper signage and located in a visible area that can help with this. Also, isn't that what reader's advisory service is for? We can direct patrons to try books from these areas if we think there's something in there that based on our RA interview they may enjoy.

A good example that I think will be done very successfully is that we're actually doing this right now where I work for our African-American collection. We're dedicating an entire reading room (it's a big library, so we are able to do this) to all of our books, DVDs, audiobooks, music, etc. that have been authored and created by African-Americans. We're calling the space the "Center for African-American Literature and Culture." When it opens later this year (the books have been moved but we're doing some remodeling to the space) we will be able to host programs, musical guests, community dialogue, and invite the public to explore the collection in it's own special place. I look at it as a celebration of culture, not segregation, although I know some may disagree.

LGBTQ I could go either way on, I don't think it's a problem to separate them for the same reasons that I'm okay with splitting up African-American literature. It's definitely a smaller category than African American literature so that's where I'm a bit hesitant - it has nothing to do with what the genre represents. LGBTQ can fall into a few other genre categories, but primarily romance and YA. I see no issues with a book display highlighting LGBTQ books from time to time - we should do that with just about anything. But I think separating these books may separate a decent chunk of another genre and I don't think it'd make as much sense for a smaller library than it would for a library that has a large romance collection and splitting the romance up into different types of romance may be beneficial they way they sometimes do in bookstores.

In addition, the way the Dewey system works, putting LGBTQ somewhere else from the rest of the collection could be more confusing than moving books from African-American authors which encompasses all genres and uses several different types of call numbers somewhere else. As a general rule of thumb, I think there are some criteria outside of ethical ones to determine if these genres are worth separating:

  • The size of the collection - how much of an impact will moving it make on the rest of the collection and will it take up a meaningful amount of space that it would get noticed? If not, perhaps frequent book displays every few months may be enough to draw attention to it.
  • The needs of the community. Do you have high demand for those specific materials?
  • If we separate, are we able to provide an area with proper signage and display the materials in similar professional, attractive fashion like the rest of the collection? 

I don't think separating is a necessary move, but I believe that if it fits the needs of the community and the library has the capacity to do it, then by all means go for it. Many libraries are well known for specific collections, so if there's a library with an amazing LGBTQ collection then it should be highlighted! 


  1. I can see your point on why you might separate out these specific groups. However, I am concerned with whether or not this will alienate some readers from potentially browsing these genres. It also opens the door for having to separate out other ethnicity groups from the main collection. I do like the idea of featuring these genres and others front and center on rotating displays though.

    1. I get your point too, I don't think either way anyone is making a grave mistake. In the case of my library with our soon-to-be Center of African-American Literature and Culture, I think that what they plan to do is make what goes in the space, non floating (say, one or two copies of each material) which means whenever those materials get checked back in Circulation gets a notice to send it back to the Center. However, additional copies of those materials would be shelved in their normally shelved areas, so I think that would help resolve one of the issues you bring up.

  2. Great prompt response! You did a great job backing up your point. Full points!