Well, my friends, this is not a quick answer. To begin with, public libraries are libraries, not museums and although librarians (who love books passionately) would love to keep every book that crosses the library threshold, we cannot. Public libraries are limited to space. Larger libraries generally have larger classic book collections and these are usually available through Inter-Library Loan (ILL). Smaller libraries must keep only books that circulate frequently on their shelves due to space limitations.
Some things that you can do to influence your public library’s collection:
Ask to see your library’s collection development policy. This will give you an idea of the guidelines that your librarian must follow. If you have concerns about the collection development policy then put your concerns in writing so that your library staff and library board can consider your concerns when developing policy. Your librarian is required to follow this policy when accepting donations and purchasing new books for your library. If you are truly passionate about libraries and are interested in library governance, offer to serve on your public library board of trustees. If you are interested in the day to day operations of libraries, ask if your library has volunteer opportunities. Many small public libraries are in need of volunteers in both of these capacities. Lastly, use the classics that are in your public library collection. This is perhaps the biggest challenge to classics in library collections. Many people have classics in their home collection and therefore do not need to check them out of the library but they would like to see more classics in the library collection. Libraries purchase more of the type of books that have high circulation. It’s a vicious circle.
So, when homeschoolers ask me why the classic books they have donated to their library are not in the collection my thoughts turn to the challenges I have listed above. I encourage you that your librarian probably does love classic literature. Help your librarian to offer the classics by using the ones that are in your public library collection and requesting the ones that are not in your collection, through Inter Library Loan.
Librarians love Homeschoolers and I know that Homeschooler’s love Public Libraries. Together we can teach our children to love great literature!