Re: Library failure (RE: NOT the "Serials Crisis" -- Dan Lester) -- Thomas McCaffrey Stephen Clark 30 Sep 2002 14:06 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE:Library failure (RE: NOT the "Serials Crisis" -- Dan Lester)
--  Rick Anderson
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2002 08:46:11 -0400
From: "McCaffrey, Thomas" <>

I disagree, very strongly, with all 3 of your answers here-- at least
depending on where the patron has come seeking these.  Perhaps a patron
of the Library of Congress, or one of the great libraries of the world,
would have an expectation of finding the Gutenberg bible, but for most
libraries, no.  And you condition that statement with "right away"--more
on that condition later.
        Your second statement is unclear--If you as a library are one of those
30, or are a major research facility where you can expect to gain access
to one of those 30 copies, then, in the course of time, yes, you should
be able to provide the use of that volume.  I wouldn't expect to be able
to fulfill such a request here, for example.
        Your third, the textbook, IS at the discretion of your library's
policies.  Again, if you are a major institution, with vast resources &
space, by all means, provide textbooks.  If you are a little hole in the
wall like we are, there is no space, let alone the staff for dealing
with acquisitioning texts.  If we are to serve the many, we must risk
disappointing the unreasonable few.
        And I take great exception with your expression of "right away"--There is
a difference between providing good service, and being "fast".  The
internet generation has come to believe that all things useful need to
be available at the speed of electronic light.  With all deliberate
speed, yes, your patrons have a right to believe you are doing your best
to fulfill their needs.  But 'right away"?  Sorry, there are no "Library
Emergencies", short of fire, flood, or earthquake.  Good things come to
those who wait.

-------- 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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