Saturday, March 22, 2008

An allowance

I'm spending the library's money, specifically on books on religion, international travel, and world history.

That sounds well and good--but it's rather hard. There's a host of considerations to keep in mind. There's the target population (the county, which is overwhelmingly white, mostly conservative), the mission of the library (to help make responsible, well-informed citizens), the purpose of the collection (to educate, but also to provide leisure reading--this is a public library, not a university library).

So, with all that in mind, I approach the catalogs. Is it any wonder I am overwhelmed?

I've been spending time in the stacks, communing (I can't think of another word, and since the library director used this term, I will too) with my sections. This entails not just staring at the books (though there's plenty of that), but considering the strengths and weaknesses of what the library has, looking for potential gaps, deciding what is outdated and needs to go, deciding what should remain in spite of low circulation counts.

So far, I've determined that the Christianity section has nothing targeted at my age group, that we need some more liberal books to balance out the Lucados. The Buddhism section is strong, though I think the books on Judaism and Islam may need some updating. We have two books on Voodoo, due to a patron request.

Trying to maintain a collection that serves the interests of the library's patrons while at the same time maintaining a balance of materials that cover a broad range of subjects is tricky. This means that the Christianity section will be large in proportion to the Islamic section simply because the majority of library patrons are church-going folk (there isn't a mosque in the county that I'm aware of), but we will devote at least shelf to books on Islam so that people can learn about it if they so desire.

All these considerations...

3 comments:

dwain said...

A Rosicrucian text, perhaps?

Jefferson said...

Laura, this post caught my eye because I teach world religions.

You are right that your Christianity section ought to be bigger than Islam. But also consider the political climate and events - there are many people, including church-going Christians, who want to learn more about Islam.

I would definitely recommend books by John Esposito, probably the premiere Islam scholar in the US. His "Islam: the Straight Path" is a great introduction to Islamic history. Karen Armstrong, another popular religion scholar has "Islam:a short history" - which is fine though less engaging than The Straight Path.

Esposito also has an intro to Islam "What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam". He has also released a new study "Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think" which is based on survey research done with Muslims worldwide. I haven't read it yet but it is an important book.

You may want to consider a few books on Mormonism - given the recent US presidential campaign which raised awareness of the Latter Day Saints.

Also for contemporary takes on Christianity (from a liberal evangelical perspective) you might want to consider Rob Bell and/or Don Miller. I read Miller's "Searching For God Knows What' and really enjoyed it. Also Timothy Keller - a Presbyterian just released "Reasons for God" aimed at a young audience.

You might consider contacting religion professors, say from UK, on occasion. They could give you some updates about books perhaps.

blessings, Jefferson Calico

CLM said...

You might consider browsing the Jossey-Bass website as their backlist might augment some of your deficiencies.