Sorting Patrons

The public library tries to be all things to all people (every reader his book; every book it’s reader)

Bobbi Newman wrote this interesting piece in which she talks about how certain people may support libraries, but they will never use them, no matter how many tempting programs or resources we dangle.

I agree with her, based on my personal experience. I know lots of people who *loooooove libraries* but have’t set foot in one since childhood. Do we really need to expend precious resources to try to get them in the door?

Newman suggests that we focus more on community support for the library, rather percentage of community with library cards. She says that we would be better off accepting that “some people don’t use the library for one reason or another.” 

Here’s the conundrum though, how do we sort the people who don’t use libraries because they just don’t want to, from the people who don’t use libraries because they’ve been turned off somehow (or because they don’t know we have what they want)?

It *is* impossible to be all things to all people. Trying is an exercise in futility and failure.

But then, at what point do we find someone unserveable?  What criteria do we use?

Accepting that we can’t serve everyone threatens the fundamentally democratic nature of libraries. When people become unserveable, we exclude them from what should be the most inclusive of communities.  Libraries are for everyone, even if everyone is not for libraries.

But this is an ideal, and given our limited resources, we need to exercise pragmatism.  Right?

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