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November 20, 2018


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This is an outrage. I personally depend on the library for a lot. I cannot get there anymore but the library comes to me in the form of Operation Bookshelf. Fiction is one thing that comes and goes but the technical is vital to an informed public.

Thanks Brian. Here is a pertinent quote from Susan Orlean's new book called The Library Book that I highly recommend to library lovers ...

"Books are a sort of cultural DNA, the code for who, as a society, we are, and what we know. All the wonders and failures, all the champions and villains, all the legends and ideas and revelations of a culture last forever in its books. Destroying those books is a way of saying that the culture itself no longer exists; its history has disappeared; the continuity between its past and future have ruptured. Taking books away from a culture is to take away its shared memory ... Destroying a culture's books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never lived."

Brian, Thank you for publishing and highlighting the library book disposal process. Thank you, Jim, for raising the issue. Without willing citizen participation City employees, whether credible, accurate, or transparent, become the default decision point and information source . 

Experience has taught me how easily well intended individual projects do not always reflect community values. Is library book removal a community issue? I commend the both of you for disclosing the decision and implications of that process.

I also invite you to consider the following four questions:

How can my want be best translated into a community goal?

When does a personal view of the world become a community obligation?

Why should I expect other members of our community to endorse my view?

What strategy will translate my views into an achievable community goal?

I encourage all Brian blog readers to answer and then act upon these questions.

Where did all of the books go?
In storage? In the garbage?
Who has the answer?

All I know is that when I look for books that interest me in the online catalog, they are never there. Neither modern nor time-honored. I am mostly interested in nonfiction.

It didn’t used to be that way.

This is outrageous. The city has already gutted the West Salem library. Absolutely sickening!

I don’t believe anyone in the state of Oregon knows more about libraries and book inventory than Jim Scheppke. I totally trust his opinions on this matter.
I believe this process of getting rid of books needs to stop immediately and get a closer look. Public input is important and necessary.

I would like to counsel some restraint before we all go ballistic. There are a few additional salient facts that should be taken into consideration. Not the least among them is the comparison between Hillsboro Public Library and Salem Public Library which seem most closely aligned in population served. Except that Hillsboro, for all its similar community size, has a annual budget that is over TWICE what Salem's is.

Either we trust the people we have hired to oversee and operate our public library in the most efficient, effective, and beneficial to the most people, manner, or "the community" will end up voting on the retention of the collection, one worn out obsolete volume at a time.

Liz S. said, "........retention of the collection, one worn out obsolete volume at a time. "

I need to install a new timing chain on a 1957 Ford 312 V8.
Where can I go to find all of the specifications and procedures for that?
What's obsolete to some is most certainly NOT obsolete to others.
Once it's gone; it's gone.

Skyline, No one is assigning a value to your 1957 Ford manual. But you want 60+ year old car manual. Why would asking the library to obtain a copy for your use when you turn up and ask for it not be as agreeable a solution to your problem as insisting that it be kept on the shelf in Salem awaiting YOUR whim to come in and expect it to be on the shelf?
Once it's gone, it's usually available somewhere that has more money, more space, and possibly a mission to collect antique car manuals, just as an example.
That doesn't happen to be Salem's situation. Salem Public Library is space strapped, poorly funded, and doing the best they can under the circumstances. I believe we owe them our support for the mission to provide the most they can to the community at large.
I've had fairly decent luck finding specs and procedures online.

The question before us seems to be: What is the idea of an adequate public library for Salem?

Ms. Strahl has indicated in very general fashion what some of the criteria are for building/managing the collection. These include, but are not limited to, "the CREW method (a national best practice developed by the Texas State Library) to evaluate the collection . . . . , [striving] to maintain a collection that is vital, relevant and useful" and "a product called CollectionHQ, which . . . . [provides] metrics, turnover rates, and identifies under- and over-stocked subject areas . . . . [allowing one to] identify items that no longer circulate, items in poor condition, and outdated information in areas of rapid change such as medicine." I accept at face value that Ms. Stahl utilizes these tools and others in good faith to manage our library.

That said, the devil is in the details. To know that the current collection management tools are sufficient to meet the community's vision for the library requires more detail and conversation between Ms. Strahl and a representative group from the community to review these questions in a mutually accepted and collaborative process.

I do not know how these sorts of task-force are set up within the Salem City government, but it does not seem entirely out of the question that this can be done in some form that gives everyone confidence that the community vision for the library is being honored in its management. It is also possible that this community vision may not be as well understood as we would hope. It's simply unclear at this time. Such a task force could clarify the community's understanding of its own vision as well.

In any event, I think it would serve us all well to take a deep breath and to assume good faith on everyone's part, moving forward to establish a process that can give us confidence that our library is being managed in a way which serves our community's best interests.


John Hofer

I am late at becoming aware of this issue. From what I have read, I have to currently agree with Jim Scheppke that the removal of these books is premature since the future availability of book space has yet to be determined. I am not currently aware of the reasons for the planned renovation. If it is to make the structure earthquake resistant, we should wait and see what the developed plan reveals regarding space. If this is not earthquake related, I have to wonder why a renovation is even needed or why it would reduce space for books...which is the reason for having the library in the first place. I was just in the library a few months ago. It is already an attractive library...so a planned renovation seems odd. I guess I need to get information on the purpose for this renovation.

April 14, 2019: I looked up this older post after reading a letter to the editor written by Jim Scheppke that appeared in today's Statesman Journal, which I quote it in its entirety:
"At the recent Friends of the Library book sale, many important, timeless books in good condition that were removed from the shelves on orders from library management a few months ago were sold for pennies on the dollar.
"For example, I purchased a National Book Award-winning poetry book for $1.25 -- a hardback in excellent condition. I checked the library catalog and discovered A PAPERBACK COPY OF THE SAME BOOK HAS BEEN RE-ORDERED AND WILL BE 'AVAILABLE SOON'. [caps mine]
"The cost of replacing the perfectly good hardback that was removed with a paperback, including processing labor, will be well over $20. What a waste! Duplicate that example a few hundred times and you are talking real taxpayer money.
"On April 22, the City Council will decide whether to resume the mass book removal project as recommended by the Library Advisory Board. I hope they will take their responsibility to be good stewards of the public purse seriously and reject the recommendation."
Sheppke, whose bona fides as Oregon's State Librarian for over 20 years, carry great weight with me, and I thank him keeping this proposed policy before us.

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