Automated book-culling software drives librarians to create fake patrons to "check out" endangered titles


But this is why one has librarians - to make those choices. The algorithm isn't going to distinguish between an outdate reference book with better modern alternatives and a rare work on a specialist subject, for example, or a trashy novel that was hot some while ago versus a significant but under-appreciated work of literature. Some of the revelatory works I've stumbled across on library shelves I haven't been able to find anywhere else since.


Agreed, there should always be the ability to over-ride the algorithm. Still, 95% of the time it will function quite appropriately.


The pessimist side of me thinks LGBT teens will "just Google it."

But you are right, the check-out count proxy, alone, is not sufficient


Sure, but in low income areas access to the Internet outside of public facilities cannot be assumed. Many libraries have their public computers out in the open to offset other issues with providing internet access. As a teen would you prefer to explore this in a highly visible area where your peers can see what you are doing or tucked away in a study carrel?


I have known a few people for whom that would be a very bad idea, if it was even a possibility. Religious conservative families who have their computers in places where you can't get any privacy, for example.


The point of having a public library isn't just to keep what's popular, but also to keep a record of what was popular. Without a well-stocked library that has a books that might have been popular or even not 20 or 30 or 100 years ago would leave a huge gap in our public knowledge and leave many people who study the past unable to do access a good set of sources.

Libraries aren't about "fashion" but about preserve human knowledge in a way that's accessible to all of us.


You do know that understanding the past is not "nostalgia" right? And that books written in the past are an incredibly helpful way to better understand the past?


Could the librarians have just checked the books out themselves, to avoid the sketchiness of using a fake account?


I think @onlinehuman was referring to card catalogs.


Probably, hard to say depending on their administration, but I think all the plans to circumvent the system are missing the bigger point the system sucks, and relying on datification alone is dangerous.

There's an issue in this discussion differentiating between "Keep all the Books!" and "let's not enslave ourselves to algorithms." The "keep all the books crowd," which I do not think anyone here is advocating, is why libraries have locked dumpsters and somebody has to stay late once a month. It's unrealistic and harmful to the mission of a public library, which the article is about. Removing human oversight to collection development is also harmful.

With so many public library systems purchasing packages from publishers of the "hot new books," deaccession is becoming the only means a branch librarian has to tailor the collection to the immediate community.


OH! Sorry @onlinehuman! My bad.


Strolling through the Dewey Decimal System of a summer's morn', and feeling it soak the hem of my gown, was ever such a delight.


I am not a library professional. I am a patron. I do this. I check out books that might be culled by an algorithm - less-visited corners of the art world and scientific/technical titles. I do this for selfish reasons (I want those books available when I use the library) and altruistic reasons (I want those books available for others when they use the library.) I make no apologies.

I do this in a metropolitan public library system. Yes, this is a democracy and the library system should be open and subject to the will of the people. I vote for the people who approve the library budget and hire the administrator for the library system. And I vote with my card - I check out books in order to keep them from being culled.

Is my judgement better than a library professional? Eh, we can debate any given title - I'm up for that. Is my judgement better than an algorithm? Yes, it is. Judgement is human, and humans are the ones who use the libraries. An algorithm does not use the library.


Good on you, keep it up.


I once wrote a sonnet cycle about the card catalog system at a university library which was being slowly replaced by an online system conveniently named (for literary reference purposes) for a Greek goddess.

That alone should earn me the title of "happy mutant"!


Can we get the algorithm to search for books referencing Ayn Rand and Donald Trump and move them up the slaughter queue?

That got me thinking about the Donald J Trump Presidential Memorial Library. I guess it contain a twitter feed.


Caressed by countless long dead fingers. The contact between their ancient sweat and grease and your finger tips. That is a sensation worth preserving. Somehow more attractive than the idea of using a communal keyboard in a cyber cafe.


Also a librarian here: I love weeding. I love getting old, unused, unwanted, and/or outdated materials off my shelves. I love a shelf that has room for new materials because I've gotten rid of all the crap taking up space.

I hate the fetishizaton of books. It's just paper and glue. What's more important is access to diverse fiction and authoritative sources of information. And I can't provide that if you have a heart attack because I'm throwing away the science book that talks about the Mir Space Station in the future tense.

ETA: Most of our sex/human body books aren't checked out. They're often misshelved though, which tells me they're being used.


For the most part I agree, they are just another technology that can go the way of microfiche (or wire recorders if somebody loves the smell of decomposing film). It's the ideas that are important. I do think there is something to physically browsing, but that may just be me showing my age.

There is a certain joy in decimating the copies of last year's must read Patterson boilerplate.

Totally read that as "Mr. Space Station" the first time. :grin:


As a rule of thumb; anything with a date (or version number) in the title can be discarded on a fairly short cycle. Lonely Planet: Burma 1998 anybody? What about Idiots Guide to Windows 3.2? Sure, there may be a specialist library or two that should keep a copy of those, but any general public library is just wasting space with them.