I read with interest your article “Professors Protest Winnowing Project,” but was dismayed by the revelation that a professor at Allegheny is interfering with the library’s deaccessioning project by physically vandalizing the work being done by the library professionals. Most of the article provided, in significant detail, the steps and criteria the library is using to make these decisions.
As an English major, I didn’t have the pleasure of taking one of Professor Lo Bello’s classes. As a tenured professor of Mathematics at my alma mater, I’m sure that he’s a terrific teacher, with generations of students who love him. This does not endow him with the privilege of electing himself the sole arbiter of what the library may or may not do in order to best serve its patrons. If he, or any professor, student, or any other member of the Allegheny community, has a problem with the criteria being used, or the number of books being deaccessioned, or any other aspect of this practice which is standard operating procedure for any library, then let them bring their concerns to the library professionals making these decisions. Librarians have a responsibility to be responsive to their community and should be open to suggestions.
I understand Professor Lo Bello’s sentiment that “a book is a work of art.” But a library is not a museum. A library is a living, breathing organ, responsible for bringing its patrons the most current research, the most impactful works, the most useful resources. Librarians are trained, credentialed, experienced professionals. And most of them, in their spare time, are bibliophiles. The implication that, by deaccessioning materials, librarians are saying that a book is no good, is professionally misleading, and could be personally insulting. The job of the librarian is not to be a guardian of dusty reliquaries. The job of the librarian, what they’ve been educated and trained to do, is to serve their public using the best means at their disposal. This is especially true for an academic library of the caliber that I hope Allegheny students and faculty would expect Pelletier Library to be.
I have owned my fair share of books, and have had to get rid of a few, too, often much to my chagrin. I understand and applaud Professor Lo Bello’s passion for books, but urge him to reconsider his tactics. After he has apologized to the librarians, perhaps he can sweet talk them into adding a few more criteria to the list described in the article and keep a few more titles in-house.