RARA-AVIS: library mission v. collectors

: James Mountain wrote:
: >I apologize to the list for the public flame, and I apologize to 
: >Curtiss Leung for flaming him in public.

:Curtiss Leung wrote:
: And I have to apologize as well for tossing "whining" back at James

gentlemen, both.
curtis also wrote:

: ... But I don't think the interest of booksellers and university
: are opposed; instead, the conflict is between collectors with unequal
: purchasing power.... 
: ... actually allocates resources in a sensible way.  A collector is
: a private interest ......A library, on the other hand, provides
: texts to the public. 
i am one of those evil deep-pockets collector, and i am proud to be so
privileged.  i also sell my redundancies; and i have been a public servant,
so i feel qualified to comment from several perspectives.  simply put,
yours is an idealistic portrayal of 'the way things should be' similar to
how many booksellers get misty-eyed when anyone mentions '84 charing cross
road'  (which was not about bookselling, but was about culture clash, but
truth is, many times, more uncomfortable than fiction.) 

to serve the public good, libraries have *multiple* options for acquiring
resources to support their mission - their *needs* as opposed to their

for example, i have given permission to microfilm or otherwise copy books
not otherwise available.  which, if you stop to think about it, a microfilm
copy, a modern fascimile reprint, or using newer technology, cd-rom
provides greater utility and dramatically reduced costs of storage,
insurance, etc.

in my 6 may post, i mentioned several other options for libraries to
acquire material to fill their mission - what they are obligated by statute
to provide.

on-the-other-hand... if the library *wants* something i also want, they
have stepped out of the public policy arena into the world of economics.  i
do not have a pre-set limit, nor do i have to ask anyone's permission to
increase my offer.  these advantages of mine are balanced by their larger
chequebook filled with other people's money, so if it comes down to a
matter of who wants it worse - i will always lose.    regardless - i do
intend to test their appetite and i expect them to test mine.  after all,
where's the fun in having something  if nobody else wants it?  

: ... First editions and manuscripts are, I should think, 
: important resources for scholars and experts, and so while a library's 
: acquisition may take a text _off the market_ it does NOT take it out of 
: circulation.  

not exactly true, in fact far from true, at least from my experience.  when
a title migrates to 'special collections and rare books' it, generally,
becomes unavailable to the public for any use other than ooohs & ahhhs &
serving as a backdrop for receptions for 'friends of the library.'  (read:

a concrete example of which happened last week.  a  scarce 1854 title was
for sale.  there are very few bibliographical details available and a 2nd
state, while still scarce and valuable, is nowhere in the same league as
the 'first in every respect.'  i tracked down six apparent 'firsts' in
public-university libraries (3 in private universities).  i mailed all nine
and asked if they would confirm some points so i might proceed with the
transaction.  i got four outright refusals, 'that is in special collections
& nobody can handle that, sorry.'  or similar.  i have yet to hear from the
other two.  stanford, university of pennsylvania, and oxford's bodlean were
absolutely delighted to assist.

: ...  But let's at least
: admit that private pleasure and public benefit aren't interchangable, and

: that the former depends upon everyone's contribution to the latter.

i agree, and in the interest of furthering public access to scarce
documents held in public trust, i will make this modest proposal to any
'special collections and rare books' curator.

if you have in you not-for-circulation inventory a book i want, i will
trade you, at your at your  option: six fascimile dead-tree reprints (if
such be published); six fascimile microfilm copies; or six cd-rom
fascimiles of the book, along with a right-to-copy as long as i own the
title.  (thank you curtiss for spurring me to greater service to my fellow

i realise i may not be speaking to hypermodern or noir issues - or am i?

best regards,
bob sikes

my interest is empire-period african and indian hunting and exploration. 
please avail yourselves of this opportunity to clear your shelves of all
those dreary old books about dead/dying elephant, recipes for missionary
soup, and ignominious lies about burning villages, 'black ivory,' cruel
sultans, ...  to make shelf-space for the latest hypermodern.

# RARA-AVIS:  To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis"
# to majordomo@icomm.ca

[Archives] | [RARA-AVIS]