Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

About Us | Prelinger Library


Source: About Us | Prelinger Library

It is amazing what I have learned this year, and the Prelinger Library is the most pleasing.  I was reviewing items for a publication award, one of which included an interview with the founders, Megan and Rick Prelinger.  They established a privately run, non-profit but publicly accessible library of eclectic material of all kinds.  Located in San Francisco, the Prelinger Library’s collection is more of an archive than a library, comprising mostly historical books, ephemera, maps, brochures and periodicals.

More surprising than the content of the collection is its organization.  The Prelingers wanted to create an experience browsing the shelves, with an emphasis on serendipity.  The books are organized by their own “unique geospatial taxonomy”, starting locally (both geographically and conceptually), transitioning outward to outer space and “abstractions of society and theory.”

Their yearbooks (see 2015, for example) describe their growth in collections and their reach into the community.  Note how they address “‘weeding'”:

The Library’s collection is never static: On any given day new material is brought by thoughtful and inspired friends, while at the same time “weeding” decisions are made (deaccessioning). Some decisions are hard, but mostly we see deaccessioning as formative: like the pruning of a tree to promote the growth of fruit-bearing branches.

Those who attended ALA that year had the chance to visit this pearl (see the yearbook’s highlight of the visit).

In addition to their physical collection, the Prelingers have delved into digitization, collaborating with the Internet Archive (Archive.org) and Getty Images to make their work more accessible.  Random digitizations I found include these gems:

Forgive me for not being aware of the Prelinger Library & their Archives before.  But now to bring this around to the focus of this blog – measuring the value of libraries.  The yearbook is not your typical annual report – there are few pieces of data, and the sections are broad:

  • Collection Development and Library Events Chronology
  • Artistic Use
  • Publication and Scholarly Use
  • Expanded Partnerships and Expanded Hours
  • Support Structures

It is clear they were telling their story and demonstrating their impact on the local, artistic and scholarly communities.  There are descriptions of visits by scholars and the work that came of their use of the archives and resources:

“My dissertation research examines the design processes of large-scale home builders in the mid-twentieth century as their industry transformed the character of the American domestic landscape. The Prelinger Library collections of housing ephemera, hard-to-find building industry journals, and period housing literature allowed me to resurrect a robust design discourse among builders largely absent from historical accounts.”

There are also published works that the Prelinger Library has been actively involved with, notably The New Farmer’s Almanac.  In the yearbook, they describe the work, but more importantly, how the Prelinger Library was integral to its revival and its content.

The only aspect of assessment that I think is missing from their yearbook is how the works that came from the use of their collections have impacted themselves on the communities.  How has The New Farmer’s Almanac been used?  What effect has the Dona Ana Sphere Project had?  They tell the story of their connection to the communities, but I think the story ends prematurely.

So, an annual report need not (dare I say, should not) be a litany of numbers, even measures with comparators, but should instead tell a story that connects the library not only with those who are directly served, but those who are indirectly served.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on December 10, 2016 by in Assessment, Collections, Intriguing Ideas.
The Scholarly Kitchen

What’s Hot and Cooking In Scholarly Publishing

Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Scholarly Communication | Scoop.it

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Library & Information Science Research | Scoop.it

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Library Collections | Scoop.it

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Lib(rary) Performance

About library statistics & measurement - by Ray Lyons

Walt at Random

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

The Scholarly Kitchen

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

The Quarterly Journal of Economics Current Issue

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Texas Library Association blogs

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Stephen's Lighthouse

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

ResourceShelf

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Reference Notes

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Politifact.com Truth-O-Meter rulings from National

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Open and Shut?

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

N S R

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Musings about librarianship

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

LISNews:

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

%d bloggers like this: