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Can you really call “Duck Dynasty“ intellectual content?

September 29, 2014

In our ongoing discussion of the roles of public libraries, I borrowed a friend’s succinct summary: “to gather, organize, and present to the public the intellectual content of our culture.”

From Montrose, P asked: “Can you really call “Duck Dynasty “intellectual content?” The answer, of course, is yes; it’s perhaps not flattering to our culture, but there you go.

Which brings to mind a couple of the Five Laws of Library Science proposed by S.R. Ranganathan in 1931: one, every reader his book; and two, every book its reader.

Statements like these can be so simple they become cryptic. But they prompt a deeper examination of an issue. Take a simple statement such as “Thou shalt not kill.” How shall we manifest this in the world? Clearly, we haven’t figured it out.

If we never kill, we die, for what would we eat? Buddhists qualify the instruction by saying not to kill “sentient beings,” which of course brings up a host of other questions.

Since we’re a long way from universal practice of this dictum, practical issues arise. What to do when someone else refuses to practice it? What does self-defense mean?

Such simple statements seem to contain much more. Not killing quite naturally becomes “not harming,” which further expands one’s approach to living with others. And not harming very easily becomes “love one another.”

“Every reader his book; every book its reader” becomes a statement of intention for librarians. Even in 1931, the possibility of a library fulfilling this wish for every potential library patron was small.

(At our library, we did have one year, years ago, in which we managed to fill, if not every desire, then every request made of us. It’s unlikely to happen again.)

So we have a “system.” Salida Regional Library is a public library among thousands acquiring new “content” all the time and sharing it amongst ourselves (as the owners of the library) and others (such as our fellow Marmot and Prospector library users).

The “system” comprises an entity—the Southern Chaffee County Regional Library District—which collects property tax toward its operation; a library building with contents; a staff to manage it; and a network, which includes decades-old relationships and practices to catalog and share things (which now are digital as well as physical).

The details of how this system is manifested in any particular community vary widely, although a public library in the U.S. is easily recognized.

In national rankings, our library has usually been around the 90^th percentile, and what has kept us from being higher is the part of the equation that measures public programming.

We’ve never done much extracurricular programming because when we’ve tried, we always bump against the enormous number of other events in town. Now that we no longer have a meeting room, we do even less.

We do children’s programming, which we’ll discuss more in the near future. And now and then some adult programs, such as the visit from Dr. Frank Gallo from Italy, who wrote (and continues to write) the history of the Salida-Lago (Italy) connection.

We have Fay Golson’s art showing right now, and we have a used book sale on Saturday, Oct. 4^th , 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

And then Thursday evening, Nov. 13^th , we’ll host Jennifer Pharr Davis at the Steam Plant Theater. Jennifer is, among other things, a long-distance hiker and a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. She holds the record—46 days—for hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Do the math on that. And mark your calendar.

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