Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 | I was distressed to read your article today pitting the “floating collection” model for the San Diego County Library System against the San Diego Public Library’s centralized system. This is neither a new idea nor an either/or issue n- each model serves different purposes. The county library has not had a “floating” collection for many years and when there was one, it was kept at County Library Headquarters [a site the public could not access], was very small, and was discontinued many years ago, distributed among the county branches.
For 40 years, the county library has belonged to the Serra Cooperative Library System, a joint powers authority of San Diego and Imperial County public libraries. Member libraries depend on the larger and more diverse collection held at the City of San Diego Central Library for materials not owned by their own library, as well as n- also through the cooperative system n- collections at SDSU and UCSD. Can you imagine any single library being able to provide everything anyone might need?
A county system serves a widely dispersed population, the majority desiring an identifiable range of general library materials. Researchers and people with special interests require collections of far greater depth and specialization, a need that cannot be met with a “floating collection” designed to serve the “average” library user. Can you imagine, for instance, turning the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, or even the LA Public Library into a “floating collection”?
The San Diego Central Library collection has been developed during more than 110 years, including innumerable materials that are no longer easily available and will never be available through electronic databases, are unique [within SD County] to the SDPL collection, and are needed by a much smaller proportion of the library user community. The collections at SDSU and UCSD complement the SDPL Main Library collection thus Serra services are able to provide over 90 percent of requested materials from within the county. To suggest that a system of small branches served with a “floating collection” is better than a major central library collection shortchanges users of public libraries everywhere.