Pi Library Use Policy Changes
by Brian G. Mason, Pi Reading
Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint
I have been working as the librarian for the Pi library
for almost ten years now. When I started, we were in the
Woodmont Building in Bethesda. At the time my original goal
was to catalog the books on hand and present them on the
shelves in such a way that they would be accessible to Pi
I had hoped to deal with the books and go on to
cataloging the periodicals. That was never to be since we
kept getting donations of more and more books. I was never
able to catch up with the books coming in.
The Current Situation
I expected the library to always be available to members
to check books out, just like a regular public library. To
ensure we would not be without a valuable book, I decided to
keep up to 4 copies of everything. That way if an item
wasn't returned or it got damaged, there would be enough
items left to take its place.
It turned out that the percentage of books checked out
that were not returned was higher than anyone expected.
Plus, periodic inventories of previously cataloged books
showed that some books simply were "disappearing." The
result was that the office cracked down on access to the
library by requiring a deposit of a person's driver's
license before access was granted.
The past couple of years the number of books being
checked out has dropped to near zero. A total of three books
have been checked out in the past 6 months. Our office
manager assures me that people are coming in and using the
library, even though the books are not being checked out.
People are apparently using the library, just reading the
books in the office or copying what they need on the copy
The shelf space in the new library in our office in
Rockville is at least double what was available in Bethesda.
Nevertheless it soon became apparent that we could not keep
all the periodicals and all the books. The first step, taken
this past year, was to donate all the user group periodicals
to Stanford University Library.
We also have audio and video recordings, which I feel
belong in the library, but like the periodicals, I have
never been able to deal with.
If we received no more donations of books, what we
currently have cataloged, plus items awaiting cataloging,
would fill all available shelf space. We do not have enough
shelf space to accommodate any new books unless we were to
get rid of the small remaining collection of periodicals we
But it does not make sense to refuse to accept new
donations, because this would mean that we could not accept
books with current material. Also, I would like to see us
maintain a more complete periodicals collection simply
because there is information in periodicals you can not find
What To Keep
If the books are not going to be used, then why have a
library? There are several different possible uses for the
Historical research. - If a person wishes to use the
library for this purpose, it would be important to keep
any and all material relating to the history of the Apple
Technical research - For this purpose, we would want
to keep manuals, how to's, etc. This would be for people
who need to know how to do something concerning their
equipment (regardless of age).
Fill-in-the-blanks research - For this purpose, we
would want to keep manuals, software manuals, and user's
guides. This would be for people who lost their original
manuals, or for people who just got new software or
equipment and need to know how to use it.
Programming research - These books would be kept for
programmers who need some guidance on how to program
I originally thought the library should serve as an
historical research library. If we kept books that served
that purpose, that would also cover the needs of people
identified in the other bullets. As a consequence, the
library currently has items ranging from the beginnings of
the personal computer in the late '70's to the development
of the Internet in the late '90's. All items are tied to
Apple computers in one way or another.
We need to meet the needs of our members. And I would
like that to include the members that don't live in the
immediate area, as well.
Change of Policy
To better utilize the space available, the first thing
that I am going to do is reduce the number of copies of a
particular book down to two. Hopefully, by getting rid of
the third and fourth copies, this will free up a little bit
In order to hang on to the two remaining copies, and to
ensure they don't "disappear," members will no longer be
permitted to check books out of the library. Members will be
able to use the book by visiting the office, but the book
will need to be returned to the office staff before the
At the same time, in order to make the collection more
available than ever before, not only to members who can make
it to the office, but to our world-wide members, I will
serve as your research librarian. If you have a question or
a problem or need to do some research, please simply write
me care of Washington Apple Pi with your request and $1 to
offset the costs of paper, copying and postage. I will
research your issue, Xerox relevant pages out of the
resources available in the office, and mail the results back
to you. Obviously, to avoid legal problems, such copying
will be limited to fair use as defined in the copyright law.
I will not copy complete documents. Please do not call or
email the office. They have no part in this effort. This
is strictly and solely the function of the Pi librarian: me.
It is our intention to post the catalog on the Pi Home Page
(http://www.wap.org). You will be able to see what we have
available by visiting the Web site.
If we are to satisfy people who are doing current
research, then we need an aggressive purchase program to
ensure we have the books our members need. I will encourage
the Board of Directors to try to find some room in the
budget for the purchase of new books so that we do not have
to rely totally on the haphazard acquisition of books
Hopefully, this new arrangement will work well for all
the members and enable the library to be put to better use
than in the past. There is a fantastic source of information
in the library. Given the limited space available to us, I
hope this new policy will make this resource more accessible
to all our members.