Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Weeding of Compassionate Conservatism

Nancy at my library recently left a couple of dozen books about politics and government on the weeding cart for us to consider. Among the many that it was easy to withdraw from our collection because they were obviously dated and no longer being read was Compassionate Conservatism by Marvin Olasky with a foreward by George W. Bush. I remembered this as a book that was hot during the 2000 presidential campaign. It was reported that it contained the principles that guided Mr. Bush as governor of Texas and that he would use as president if elected. According to Nancy's notes, the book, which we acquired in 2000, was not borrowed from our library until 2003 and had not been borrowed ever again. So, it had just one circ in seven years. It should be easy to withdraw based on local non-performance.

However, I hesitated to dump it. Wasn't it supposed to be an important book in our continuing political debate? Was it a fluke that it did so poorly at my library?

I checked the records on the SWAN database, which is shared by almost eighty libraries. Eleven libraries currently own the book. I have no way of knowing if others have already withdrawn it. Of the eleven copies, two have been borrowed in 2007 and one went out in 2006. Our is next in line as most recently borrowed. The other seven have not been out since 2000, 2001, or 2002. Only one copy, the one held by the largest library of the eleven, has as many as eleven circs. Most have four or fewer circs. Most of the larger libraries in our system do not currently own the book. I suspect these libraries have already tossed it. It seems it would be easy to do likewise.

I love to weed books, but still, I hesitated. I wondered whether I would be throwing out an important bit of history if I weeded the book. On the other hand, I feared I would just be cluttering the shelves with another dead book if I kept it.

I started to actually read the book and my answer became obvious. Compassionate Conservatism is really just a follow up to The Tragedy of American Compassion by Olasky, which was published in 1992. The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that had the endorsement of conservative politicians. Compassionate Conservatism reports on Olasky's visits to states and cities where the principles were being applied in the late 1990s. It seems incidental and includes what are now old statistics in need of being revised.

There are still ten more copies of this book in the system should we need it.

We are freeing seven eighths of an inch on our shelves.


C.B. James said...

Great post. It's interesting to read about the weeding process. Very similar to what I do now and then with my collection at home.

I've added a link to your blog on my own blog.

it's not showing yet but should be in a couple of hours.

laura said...

See, this is why I hate weeding. . . I can spend hours on this sort of a debate. Happily, though, I'm about to enter the 600s, where many decisions will be much easier (hmm. . . the Prescription Drug Interaction Guide from 1994? The circular file, I think).

Norma said...

My PL will stock several feet of one title of an anti-Bush book, even though it serves a heavily Republican community. I think librarians like to make statements, and usually it is, "You all are wrong, and we are right (left)." Few conservatives will depend on a PL for titles, which may be why circulation is low.

Anonymous said...

My experience is opposite from yours. My public library is in Republican land, and we buy every anti Hillary/Democratic/scientific book there is, due to patron demand. (We buy pro Hillary/Democratic/scientific titles due to patron demand also!)
Check out the SWAN catalog for the libraries in southern/western Chicagoland--you'll see lots of them own lots of the conservative books that you say libraries don't have.

Each title gets 5-10 readings, then interest dies after 6 months. That's what bothers me: how much money I have to spend buying every crabby Republican and Democrat book that will not be read a year from now!!!

Shannon said...

I think it's a valuable 7/8 inch, especially since there may be a new wave of political publications as the tides are changing.

I do have to respectfully disagree with Norma......or maybe I'm just in a different place?!?

I'm the leaning tower of feel good love/peace/let's save the world leftness, yet I stride to make sure my collection represents all viewpoints. I couldn't feel good about my buying decisions unless I was sure that I was walking the line.

I wonder if there are any studies on Dem vs. Rep and their Library use? If fewer conservatives are using a Library, are they reading less, going to a bookstore more, or using online sources. Fodder for thought....... Shannon

Anonymous said...

So let me get this right - librarians and likely the author of this blog are bastions of the left yet you promise balance in purchasing/weeding decisions. If that is true why didn't you look at editorial reviews of the book....
A thoughtful, if controversial, analysis that should be considered by everyone concerned with the plight of the poor

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