Letter to the editor: Bixby Library changes aren’t universally applauded

The recent article on the changes at Bixby Library in Vergennes does not tell the whole story. The article quotes only Jane Spencer and Ed Place in self-congratulatory remarks about these changes. No one from the general public was interviewed for this story, it seems. How do we know that “the five towns really like what they’re seeing here?” Are there surveys to back that up? Have the numbers of people coming in the door risen? Are the new computers finding constant use? I would be interested to know the derivation of that finding.
Changes to keep up with the times are always necessary. I certainly applaud better internal communications systems and improvements to bring Bixby up to fire code and allow better handicap access. Other improvements are also welcome: the growing number of programs, for instance.
Many people (and I know them), however, lament that, for example, the technology changes are being put in place at the expense of what is termed in your article “older books.” The article states: “Eliminating some older books … did create some pushback in the community, at least at first. ‘We’re open to criticism, and then we’ll explain why,’ Place said. ‘I think once people understand, most of them are good with it.’” It is not that simple. Vast numbers of books were de-accessioned to make room for computers. I would hesitate to name the percentage, but I have been told it was on the order of two-thirds. The “older books” — some of which I call not “old” but “literary classics” — are gone but are not being entirely replaced by newer books. So that statement is a bit disingenuous.
Moreover, as I stated earlier, I know plenty of people who are not “good with it.” Many of us had no idea that the technology changes would have this result.
The article also mentions the offering of e-books and e-magazines. All well and good for those who want to make the shift to computers. (I would ask here: What about the poorer among us who may not have access to technology at home? What about the elderly who may not be familiar with technology or just plain not like it?) I myself have been to the library to look for a book and have been told that while it is not available at the Bixby, I can “borrow” it for Kindle or even go to one of the partner libraries to get it.
I vastly prefer to read paper after my long day in front of the computer has ended. I also prefer not to have to get in my car and take myself to another library to borrow a book and then get back in my car to return it. I believe that this suggestion was simply a method of diverting me from asking for an interlibrary loan. (Are those requests rising?)
Some library personnel will point to a survey conducted to ask the five-town residents what they wanted to see at the Bixby. I just happened to be at Shaw’s the day that was being handed out. I and others did not know in advance about that survey. Some of my friends never knew about the survey at all, and so their opinions were not counted. There are 7,812 people in the five towns, using 2016 figures. How many surveys were returned from the five towns? I will also note that by the time the survey was conducted, for example, the piano in the community room was already on its way out the door.
On its face, that is puzzling if the goal of the survey was truly to take the pulse of the community. It seems that decisions had already been made and were being implemented. The survey itself also never hinted at the full scope of plans to de-accession. Opinions were not invited.
It would sadly seem that the Bixby has forgotten the etymological derivation of the word library: “Middle English, from Anglo-French librarie, Medieval Latin librarium, from Latin, neuter of librarius of books” (quoting Webster).
Marcia Merryman-Means

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