Storms isn't done 'fixing' your library

Look out.

Ronda Storms, former Hillsborough County commissioner and current state senator (R-Fire and Brimstone) has her eye on your library. Again.

What now? A plan to rid us of books unwholesome, or at least containing the word "evolution"?

Another attack on library displays about gay pride, the first of which led to a ban on anyone in county government pretty much even thinking the words "gay pride"?

No, this time Sen. Storms has set her sights on something more insidious lurking in the stacks of our state.

You guessed it. The Dewey Decimal System.

The book cataloging system from your elementary school days, now used in multiple countries and languages, dates back to the 1870s and a fellow named Melvil Dewey, a very librarianish name. (I say this with the utmost respect for librarians and all they do, not wanting to join with Storms in referring to "a lot of little old librarians" she predicted would have a heart attack about her dissing of Dewey at a recent budget hearing.)

Storms calls the Dewey Decimal System frustrating, outdated and ridiculous. She would like something more akin to what they use at bookstores.

But librarians will tell you they don't see streams of patrons unable to negotiate the system leaving empty-armed in tearful frustration. The hordes of kids who packed my local branch over winter break seemed to be finding books (and magazines and computers) just fine.

"It's a particularly useful system for public and school libraries because it's fairly easy to work with," says Barbara Pickell, director of the Clearwater library system. She gives Dewey good marks for "browseability" and says it's more accurate than the system bookstores use.

Even a particularly numerically challenged person (okay, me) managed to find the shelf spot for Ecology of a Cracker Childhood in minutes and without librarian aid. I just looked it up and, you know, followed the numbers. Fiction, by the way, is generally organized alphabetically by author.

A more important question is whether, given the economy, switching to a new system for cataloguing books is anything we have the remotest interest in spending money on right now. Because, like new traffic signs or street addresses, it would cost.

Meanwhile, libraries are shaving hours and cutting staffs (14 in Clearwater, for example) at the same time as a cash-strapped public needs services like libraries and parks more than ever.

So, please. Shelve this silly idea of doing in Dewey.

Lest you think Ronda Storms has wandered far afield from all that makes her Ronda Storms, know she is one of the lawmakers sponsoring legislation for a $1 tax on strip club admission to give low-income nursing home residents more spending money.

Oh, and on the book front: She has also spoken out against public libraries loaning out TV shows like Seinfeld.

Certainly we can differ on what we think our libraries should and shouldn't stock, but the idea of some politico — even one with my taste in books — micromanaging what we can and can't get gives me the willies.

We know from history what a book burning looks like. How do you suppose you light a pyre of DVDs?

Storms isn't done 'fixing' your library 12/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 3:23pm]

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