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home : columnists : columnists July 25, 2017

2/23/2017 8:45:00 AM
You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme

I've always tried to keep this column positive, but occasionally a situation arises that I cannot in good conscience ignore. This is one of those times.

There is an unfortunate trend these days to turn libraries into "community centers" and the Hamilton East Public Library has jumped in feet first.

I'm sure the library administration will gladly gush on about how they're taking the library into the 21st century, but if you cut through all the spin, you get to what they aren't telling you - that the already existing library collection is practically being destroyed to create this "community center."

Thousands of items have been weeded from the Noblesville library. Shelves that were once filled with a wonderful selection of books are now one half to three-quarters empty. In some areas, shelving has been removed completely.

A stroll through the stacks or a check of the catalog betrays that this weeding was done, not, as my library science professors taught us, by taking into account an item's present or potential value, or its place in the collection, but most likely by quota and by how physically attractive the book was.

Sure, electronic versions of some books are available, but what if, like me, your eyes bother you if you stare at video screens too long, or if you can't find the money to buy a Kindle or other device to read them, or if you just plain like to read books in their physical form?

The most upsetting aspect of all is that as far as I know, library patrons were never asked if they wanted these drastic changes. (I certainly wasn't, and I spend a lot of time in that library.)

Nor were the tax payers of Noblesville and Fishers asked if they minded having their hard-earned tax dollars tossed out the door like yesterday's garbage. (Do you have any idea how much money those weeded items represent?)

To sum up:

If you discovered a wonderful book at the library a few years ago and want to re-read it, it probably isn't there.

If you want to read a series of books by an author - even a New York Times Bestselling author - the odds are you'll have to get some of them through interlibrary loan or buy them yourself because you're likely to find gaps in the series.

If you need an answer to a reference question and a computer isn't available, too bad. The reference collection was dismantled about a year and half ago, and was replaced by some tables and chairs which are rarely used.

If you need a nonfiction book for research, you'll probably have to hope it's available online and that the sections you need are part of the book's preview.

If you like to use the library as a quiet place to work or study, forget it. The noise levels are bad now and they aren't going to get any better in the future.

The only good thing I can say is that the Indiana Room, with its valuable - and sometimes irreplaceable - genealogical and historical items, has escaped most of the destruction so far. But, who knows what the future might hold?

If this turn of events disturbs you as much as it does me, you need to let the members of the library board know. You'll find their contact information at www.hepl.lib.in.us/library-board-of-trustees/

I've loved and used this library for nearly 60 years. What's happening to it just breaks my heart.

Remember the immortal words of Joni Mitchell -"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com

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