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Library is not 'repository of all of Western civilization'

Library user Ken Fitch speaks against a book discard job at the Henderson County public library. Library user Ken Fitch speaks against a book discard job at the Henderson County public library.

Endorsing the ability of the professional staff to evaluate the public library’s books and choose which ones to discard, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday directed library director Trina Rushing to proceed with a pruning process that drew heavy emotional fire during two meetings over the past week.

A half dozen library users asked for more public input on the discard process and about as many speakers rose to support the effort, saying the library has professional librarians trained to weed out books that are outdated and inaccurate.
Rushing told the commissioners that the library’s material evaluation project is based on a systematic analysis of each item’s relevance, accuracy and usage. Last done 10 years ago, the process is needed to make room for more books and because Henderson County is joining a statewide network that will increase the available inventory of books, CDs, DVDs and other material from 317,000 to 5 million.
The library also needs more small meeting rooms.
“Our last two community surveys that we’ve done (have shown) that the community is shifting what they’re wanting from the library,” Rushing told the Hendersonville Lightning last week.

“They’re really needing more community meeting space, for tutoring, for the Literacy Council and for the elementary and middle school kids, and for small groups to get together to work on projects. The main library was used over 3,000 times last year; we’re turning people away.”
Library board member Candler Willis delivered a strong defense of the library’s work.
“We have an excellent library staff who is doing the pruning of the collection according to generally accepted library standards,” he said. “They do a good job. They don’t discard things wantonly or haphazardly. They have a procedure.
“No. 2. It’s been suggested we take public input when we decide what to discard,” he said. “It’s all indefensible when actions speak louder than words. We let the circulation — what people actually use and what they check out — be their statement of what they want in the library.
“No. 3, we are not the Library of Congress. We cannot keep all books, even if they’re valuable. We have a finite amount of space. And so we have to make choices. We’re not the sole-source repository of all of Western civilization. We are the repository that keeps things that are unique to Henderson County and to some extent North Carolina.” There are some volumes individuals want the library to stock. “We are not charged to provide these collections. We are charged to provide what the citizens of Henderson County want,” he said.
“We have a means of accepting financial support for the library. If people want to see a particular work we don’t have, they can make a donation to the foundation.”