January 02, 2007

The latest book buzz, or, For whom the bell tolls

Via wisteria, this Washington Post article, "Hello, Grisham -- So Long, Hemingway?: With Shelf Space Prized, Fairfax Libraries Cull Collections", about literary classics on the chopping block in Fairfax County, Virginia, libraries:
You can't find Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or The Education of Henry Adams at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's Final Harvest? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.

It's not that the books are checked out. They're just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.

Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.

Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region's largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.

Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics.
Biggest buzz? If you want to give yourself a truly buzzing headache, don't miss the "bye bye" book list on the sidebar.

And via author and home educating father James Bartholomew comes the recent news from The Independent that "Millions of adults have such poor reading skills that they will struggle to keep up with karaoke lyrics at Christmas parties this year, government research has found".

Oh dear.

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