Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

Pi Library Use Policy Changes

by Brian G. Mason, Pi Reading Librarian

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

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 members.

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 machine.

Space Problems

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 have.

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 in books.

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 collection:

  • 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 computer.

    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 software

  • 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 of space.

    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 person leaves.

    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 through donation.

    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.