City News

Salem library review paused following outcry from residents

Shelves at Salem Public Library in late November. The library’s new, more rigorous review policy is on pause until a public meeting Jan. 9. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter files)

A rigorous review of items in the Salem Public Library’s collections is on hold after residents worried that books would be needlessly purged.

Library officials confirmed to Salem Reporter they are pausing the policy until meeting again with the Library Advisory Board on Jan. 9. Salem City Councilor Chris Hoy said the meeting gives the public a chance to weigh in.

“The goal is to have the best library possible, whether you’re a city councilor, a resident, whether you work there. We all want the best library possible,” he said.

The advisory board meeting is public and comment will be allowed. In the meantime, librarians continue to review books based on their condition.

The pause emerged from a meeting Tuesday between city staff, including City Manager Steve Powers and City Librarian Sarah Strahl, and councilors Hoy and Sally Cook.

That meeting itself was prompted by an outcry from residents, including a spate of social media posts and local blogs last month that vented the library’s new “collection development policy” would doom large portions of its 300,000 books. Salem Reporter first reported on the issue Nov. 27.

Councilors said residents made clear they were worried the policy would take books away from local readers.

“As long as that library has been around, people have been protective and passionate about it,” said Cook, who served on the advisory board before her election to council.

Under the policy, enacted in September, library workers systematically review items — everything from books to DVDs to ukuleles — using a manual called the CREW Method. The manual guides libraries on how to evaluate items to be kept, mended or discarded.

For books, the manual goes through categories within the Dewey Decimal System. In each category, the manual advises librarians to review books based on how long ago such books were published, last checked out and their condition.

Then, trained librarians review those books against 15 criteria, such as popular interest, significance, cost and shelf space. Books are then kept, donated or thrown away.

Jim Scheppke, a former director of the State Library of Oregon, said such pruning had already been done at the Salem library and he worried doing more would be a detriment to local readers. He said Friday he was glad to hear of the pause.

“I think it’s great. I really appreciate councilors went to the city manager and intervened in the situation. It needed to be done,” he said.

Strahl said the advisory board meeting will give her an opportunity to show why the policy is best for the library.

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what we’re doing and why and we just want to give everybody a chance to see that this is pretty normal library business,” she said. “My hope is it’s an opportunity share with the community about why it’s so important.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.