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Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 | Marnette Federis’ “Shhh…There’s a New Idea for Libraries” unfortunately conflates too many ideas. Floating collections, convenient delivery, and central libraries are distinct programs none of which depend on one another.

It is good to take a system-wide approach to library materials, with items accessible at any library location in a timely manner. While there are improvements to be made, San Diego Public Library operates this way now. Floating collections don’t improve on this significantly. The difference between a floating collection and a traditional one is that when an item is returned, it stays at the location to which it was returned and does not have a “home” branch. If the item is wanted somewhere else, it is delivered there exactly as it would with a traditional collection.

With regard to library materials, a central library is nothing more than an especially deep collection. That depth can be scattered across a library system, but there are tradeoffs: the item you want may be convenient to you, it might not, but there is no place where the depth is assembled.

Whether delivery is routed through a central location or not is a logistical question. At present, San Diego Public Library’s delivery hub happens to be located across the street from the Central Library. It may be located somewhere else in the near future. Again, improvements can be made, but they are essentially unrelated to the question of floating collections and central libraries.

I’m glad to see voiceofsandiego.org trying to expand the debate on library services. Arguments for and against central libraries should made. But central libraries don’t inhibit prompt delivery of materials around a system, and floating collections don’t particularly speed delivery. This article only confuses the discussion.

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