Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: A Dozen Solutions to All Library Problems

Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: A Dozen Solutions to All Library Problems

Article excerpt

In honor of April 1 and the library facilities issue, I'd like to share a special set of precepts to eliminate library problems and end the need for new library buildings, if you follow them to the letter.

1. Every good library is the same. That's true for Barnes & Noble--and don't all librarians want to make their facility just like Barnes & Noble? Consider how much you'll save by treating your library just like all the other libraries.

2. Outsource: Profit = efficiency = effectiveness. You outsourced most cataloging years ago. You don't build your own integrated systems, publish your own books, or manufacture your own shelving. Why do local collection development, reference work, or anything except circulation? Outsourcing takes care of union problems and overpaid employees; it's as good for libraries as for any other bottom-line business.

3. Follow the Pareto Principle. Focus 80% of your library's budget and attention on the 20% of your customers who represent 80% of your business. Satisfy your best customers (the word to use!) and you can't go wrong. Those who get left behind probably don't pay much in taxes anyway, and won't help when you start your NPR-style pledge drives (AL, Feb., p. 37-39). Forget them.

4. Give 'em what they want. Period. Buy enough copies of the latest bestsellers to fill all demand. For academic libraries, get all the full-text journals you can possibly afford: Students love 'em. Why worry about materials that serve the next generation? You'll be retired by then anyway. What did the next generation ever do for you?

5. If it hasn't circulated in two years, dump it. Keep those shelves clear for the stuff your best customers want. If nobody's used it in two years, chances are it's worthless for today's top customers.

6. Never offend your community. Who are you to purchase materials that offend community members? Once you move to an inoffensive collection policy, you won't have to explain to trustees why they should care about intellectual freedom and minority needs.

7. Ignore your community. Do you have a growing Spanish collection to serve your growing Hispanic population? How about ESL and adult literacy programs to help struggling community members? Are you investigating and serving changing community needs? No?

Then why bother? You're the professional here. …

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