And atop of being arbiter of wrongthink it expects librarian to keep abreast of scientific knowledge and review books on organic gardening "for accuracy and currency of information after five years".
The author isn't trying to shovel that onto librarians. The author simply understands and is acknowledging that that is an inherent, inescapable part of the librarian's job. This would come as no surprise to the manual's intended audience, the people who brought you Banned Book Week. They know their business.
And, yes, discarding books with outdated ideas is a smart, practical move. These are often books that people are going to be less interested in checking out, because people would rather check out books that reflect contemporary ideas. For example, I'm not at all interested in checking out an etiquette book that reflects mid 20th century ideas about gender roles. I would be much happier to take advice from an etiquette book that isn't actively offensive to me, and I'm not alone in that, so it makes sense for the librarian to get rid of the old etiquette book in order to make room for one that people would actually check out.
There is obviously also some value in keeping old books that people don't want to read anymore. Where you strike the balance there is going to have a lot to do with the library's purpose. Research libraries and public lending libraries have different goals and responsibilities.
First of all, nothing you can do in this subject is morally neutral. By calling this "wrongthink", you are also bringing in morality; and implying that perhaps librarians should be arbiters of morals and ethics by retaining certain works.
Secondly, it expects the people paying librarians' salaries to care about these things. Typically this will be the local taxpayers.
Obviously when you found a library, funded entirely from your own personal wealth, then the librarians will arbitrate what kinds of books are or are not kept based on your ideas of morals, ethics, and usefulness.
It doesn't expect a librarian to be an expert in all fields, but on nonfiction topics, many five year old books can safely be discarded in exchange for newer ones in fields like science and technology in particular. If one is regularly replacing books about the planets, one doesn't need to know that Pluto is no longer defined as a planet, every book in the last five years on the subject will do that for you.
Another important note is that CREW is for public libraries which can only maintain a collection of a certain size and which needs a high percentage of material to be frequently accessed. An academic or research library would have a very different strategy.
Librarians are passionate people who think a lot about these issues.
The problem with most of the libraries that I have visited in the last thirty years is that they seem to have forgotten about the educational aspect. I can't speak for other fields than those in which I have some expertise but I suspect that most technical subjects are less well served now than their equivalents were a hundred years ago.
Specifically topics such as computer science, practical computing at a higher level than Such and such for Dummies, electronics, physics, are all pretty much useless in most libraries except university and major reference libraries. Partly the problem is that they simply do not have enough books in those categories but another is that they are frequently well out of date.
I'd like to believe that the reason is simply because the librarians don't have any expertise in those subjects and therefore are not able to see how useless the collections are but I suspect that it probably has more to do with a kind of market orientation so that libraries are filled with books that are popular rather than books that are useful.
This of course becomes a vicious circle because the few technical works are read so rarely on account of being useless that the library concludes that the genre is even less popular than it really is and hence doesn't buy any more up to date books.
Perhaps a librarian could chip in with some actual knowledge instead of my observation and speculation.
It would be great if public research libraries were more common - to be honest, I don't even know if such places exist.
I know that research libraries exist at most universities and certain other organizations (generally focused on what that organization is for) - but they either require you to be an active student to access them, or are private.
As an individual who isn't a student, but still wanting to do research, my only options are to purchase such research (in the form of books, magazines, or journals/articles), or find it on the internet in some form. Even then, I know that I am not getting everything - and likely missing out on a lot of information.
But what other choice do I have?
If you need borrowing privileges, these can in many cases be purchased from the institutions for between $1-300 per year. They generally don’t include offsite electronic resource access, but every university library I’ve worked for have computers with guest access to all of these materials.
It’s a little pricey, but if you’re a regular consumer of academic or specialty literature, not at all a bad deal.
I don't know about elsewhere, but there's absolutely nothing stopping you from walking into any library that I've been to in the University of California system. You have to jump through some hoops to check things out as a non-student, but the access to information is there.
But getting access to these works is by no means difficult in states with robust library systems (both public and state university). This week, I’ve had two obscure, academic works delivered to my local branch library from universities in the state. It took about a week from request until delivery and there was no charge to me whatsoever.
In my experience, libraries have dropped into a degenerate low-energy state of stocking junk for a subsection of the community.
If your argument is that we should have well-funded and staffed libraries of an academic caliber in more cities, I completely agree. But doing so would involved a broader conversation about the wealthy’s attack on public goods and upper income people’s disinvestment from them/preference for private services as a form of class signaling.
For example, most public libraries aren’t resourced or staffed to provide large, browsable stacks of items that rarely circulate. Managing collections like this actually involves a lot of daily, tedious work to keep them accessible and properly ordered. I’ve spent many hours doing it myself and managing students doing the same.
But they absolutely will get you just about any book you want, either by purchasing it or through a temporary loan. There’s not a conflict about “real circulation,” so much as their is a pragmatic inability to cater to every individual need, on demand.
If you want your library to serve you better, I suggest you start using it and communicating with them about your needs. You’ll probably find the staff more than happy to help and accommodate.
That's Indexing and Abstracting, not Cataloging, a different area of librarianship/information science. Sorry.
More seriously: The poster must have had some context in mind when they posted this to HN and it would be interesting to learn what that was; even if it was just "TIL libraries don't keep books forever."
Libraries in the past had a lot of books on science and technology that was actually relevant to the times and places. You could go to a library in a medium sized town and the reference section would contain a lot of works of practical utility. I know they were there because I borrowed them. I didn't borrow them a hundred years ago but some of the books on loudspeaker design, acoustics, electronics, etc., that I referred to in my early teens fifty years ago had been published a couple of decades earlier and were sufficiently good to still be relevant. Let's say between 50 and 80 years ago then. If I look for books of a similar standard in modern libraries they are simply not present.
I agree that not every little branch library can have or did have a large collection of such books but the central library serving a town of, say a hundred thousand people should surely have more than a couple of dozen tatty "Excel for Dummies" style books.
I understand that libraries will get books on demand but there really is no substitute for actually dipping into a book to discover if it is worth reading and of a level that is comprehensible.
If I am to do all this online then what is the library actually for?
Perhaps my view is biased because I come from a town that for at least a century made its money from a work force of engineers, technicians, and mechanics, who could read and write and wanted to advance in their crafts.
All 15 of the fiction bestsellers from 20 years ago are available.
I think I could go on at length about this manual from a critical aspect, but suffice to say I think it is wildly optimistic, to the point of being pollyannaish.
The faculty: the manual ignores the agonizing battles one will have with the faculty over discarding a book that has not circulated in twenty years (note that this circulation number might be incorrect because the faculty member has instructed some hapless grad student to locate the book and then squirrel it away in a locked faculty carrel or perhaps in the ceiling tiles); the faculty will then wish to have each and every book to be removed to be up for debate by each and every member of the faculty. You can imagine how efficient this might be, with each volume treated as if one were callously pitchforking puppies and kittens into some kind of Moloch-furnace. My favorite offender was a duplicate of an index to some other library's special collections that was out of date by a few decades.
I say without a trace of exaggeration that faculty will also debate the language used in the process by comparing it to the verbiage of the Holocaust.
I may have missed it in my skimming, but I do not see anything about automated tools for comparing the catalog against the union catalog of the libraries in one's own local ILL system. I can find nothing on the long-term strategic outlook. While other libraries are trying to shovel books out the back door and out of sight, others are trying to win Hearts from the other angle by keeping what others would throw away, thereby becoming centers for inter-library loan.
Of course, the best code is the code you did not write; similarly, the easiest book to get rid of is the one you did not buy. Acquisitions should be rather tight and yet many libraries blindly pull great palettes of junk from a pre-determined approval list, typically formulated from best-sellers and the like, which results in your science fiction section being inundated with various Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and WH40k issues, starving out the rest. These circulate early and then not at all. Acquisitions are filled with these trivial mistakes which accumulate in the calculus of time.
I could go on and on about this, but the manual could use a more cynical approach to better effect.