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Library failure (RE: NOT the "Serials Crisis" -- Dan Lester) -- Rick Anderson Stephen Clark 26 Sep 2002 15:34 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
From: "Rick Anderson" <>
Subject: Library failure (RE: NOT the "Serials Crisis" -- Dan Lester)
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 08:20:09 -0700

 > If I come in and seek the Gutenberg Bible and
 > don't get it right away, is that a failure?


 > If I come in and ask for
 > a rare book published in 1775 and owned by only thirty libraries in
 > the country, is that a failure?


 > If I come in and ask for a copy of my
 > English 101 textbook, and the library, by policy, doesn't purchase
 > textbooks, is that a failure?


In all three cases, the library has failed in the attempt to provide needed
information to its patrons.  That doesn't mean that the library isn't a good
library; all libraries (like all people and organizations) will fail
sometimes.  But the standard against which we measure ourselves should not,
in my opinion, be what librarians consider to be good information service.
It should be based on what our patrons need.  If we can't (or simply don't)
give them what they need, that's a failure whether or not our level of
service is consistent with professional standards.

I'm not a big fan of corporate management rhetoric, but I've always liked
Jack Welch's observation that in too many organizations, "Most people have
their a--es to the customer and their faces to the chairman."  Substitute
"patron" for "customer" and "professional standards" for "chairman," and I
think you've got a pretty fair assessment (no pun intended) of where we
stand as a profession right now.

Rick Anderson
Director of Resource Acquisition
The University Libraries
University of Nevada, Reno          "Beware any theory that
1664 No. Virginia St.                explains everything and
Reno, NV  89557                      predicts nothing."
PH  (775) 784-6500 x273              -- Richard C. Galbraith
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