I am responding to Ms. Churchill’s letter about the County Library and would like to touch on some of the points she made.
In all of 2015, 93,846 books were deleted from the systemwide collection. At the same time, we added 81,321 books and 7,104 of them went to Watchung.  A substantial portion of the difference is attributable to our having removed outdated and disused reference materials (such as encyclopedia sets) and duplicate copies of older bestsellers. (These numbers do not include ebooks or other digital media.)

How do we decide to remove books from the collection? Library users themselves decide. Books that are worn out from use are replaced, because we know from their use that they are popular. Books that have not been borrowed for three or more years are candidates for review by a librarian, to see if they still merit a place on the shelf. Unless they are classics or somehow unique, they are withdrawn. Books with outdated information -- such as those encyclopedia sets -- are also withdrawn for obvious reasons. It’s really a matter of simple math: at some point in the development of each library collection, we must reach a balance between materials being added and those being removed; we do this using best professional practices. If you are interested in how and why we do this, a copy of our deselection process is available at this link: http://goo.gl/z34G4g.

The writer’s story about her daughter's experience being told there were no materials in the collection to support a high-school level paper on immigration policies in early 20th Century New York was of specific concern. Simply put, she received appallingly poor customer service. There are books currently on the shelf at almost all of our library locations that address this subject; regardless, the staff member should have been able to find additional print and digital resources that would have met her needs, including a complete run of the New York Times into the 1800s. The fact that this did not happen means that we clearly need to follow up with more training. We have asked for specifics so we could address the training issues.

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Ms. Churchill further recommends you find out what is happening at your local library, a wonderful suggestion. I would recommend first taking a look at your Library’s strategic plan, which was developed through broad consensus of staff and community input. You will find the plan at this link: http://goo.gl/QaavAh. With regard to the use of spaces in each branch, please consider reviewing page of 23 of the plan as well.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions: my direct dial number is 908-605-6001.

I deeply appreciate the commitment that Ms Churchill and others make who serve as members and leaders of the Watchung Friends of the Library. Like all of us here at Somerset County Library System of New Jersey, they want only the best for their library.

Sincerely,
Brian K. Auger, County Library Administrator