Re: Library failures -- Albert Henderson Stephen Clark 26 Sep 2002 18:55 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 14:49:04 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <>
Subject: Library failures

on Thu, 26 Sep 2002 Dan Lester <> wrote:

 > Thursday, September 26, 2002, 6:26:34 AM, you wrote:
 > SC> on Wed, 25 Sep 2002 Dan Lester <> wrote:
 > SC>  > Thanks for the new ideas. I'm going to talk to some colleagues
 > SC>  > ways we could measure our failures.  I'd also appreciate
 > SC>  > from other list members who might have read this far.  Perhaps
 > SC>  > should be started as a new thread instead of as yet one more
 > SC>  > on this one.
 > Note that I started a new thread title.
 > SC>         You might like to read "The Library Collection
 > SC>         Failure Quotient" in Journal of Academic
 > SC>         Librarianship [26:159-170. 2000]
 > I read it when it came out and had forgotten it, unfortunately. I just
 > printed it again and will reread.  Perhaps part of the problem is
 > disagreeing with you on this being a "failure".  The article
 > conclusion begins "If the measure of library service is that
 > patrons obtain what they seek when they seek it, the CFQ is indeed an
 > indicator of failure."  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?  Examples abound, of course.

        For every rare book that a library cannot deliver,
        there are probably several popular ones that are
        also undeliverable because the one copy collected
        is in use, misplaced, in the bindery, or so on.

        The measure quoted, which was proposed by Michael
        Buckland, seemed reasonable when demonstrated by
        statistics representing substantial numbers of
        transactions. In the article cited above, the
        libraries studied are the largest academic research
        libraries, where ARL statistics provide a picture
        of growing failure over two decades.

 > To put it in context of other parts of our lives, if I go into
 > McDonalds and can't get a burger within three minutes, that's a
 > failure.  If I go into fine restaurant and can't get my entree in
 > three minutes, that isn't a failure.  In this day and age a great many
 > of us, myself included, have high and often unrealistic expectations.
 > As always, this is not an indication that libraries are adequately
 > funded.  They should receive much more funding, and we should continue
 > to use whatever means possible to increase that funding.

        Reasonable standards should be based on research
        and experience. When they are not met you have a
        situation you can call unacceptable.

 > SC> While I love a good debate can we stop talking about the "Serials
 > SC> Crisis" please?  I'd like some other topics to get an airing on the
 > list.
 > The "Serials Crisis" isn't an appropriate topic for a list devoted to
 > serials?  I'm sure that any topics that anyone posts that relate in
 > any way to serials will get approved by the moderators.  After all, we
 > just had a long thread on strange serials titles, that I'm sure some
 > on the list must have considered frivolous or inappropriate (I'm not
 > one of them; I thought it was fun)
 > But, if it is any consolation, I can't think of much more that Albert
 > and I could say on this topic.  At least not much more that I could
 > say.

        We'll see...

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson