June 19, 2007

Give the People What They Want or What They Need?

Two schools of thought in the field of library selection and acquisition of materials:

1) Give the people what they want
2) Give the people what they need

The first involves responding to either actual requests from patrons OR what you think the patrons want based upon your perceptions and, perhaps, circulation patterns.

The second involves not stocking the library with materials that patrons have asked for nor is it based upon historical circulation patterns. It has to do with what the librarian thinks the library should have because having it will make the patrons better in some way. i.e. it's good for them, it will improve their minds, their life.

Librarians get into really heated arguments over these two ideas. You may find it hard to believe that librarians get animated about anything. Well, I'm a librarian and if you read this blog you know what a opinionated person I can be. Please abolish any ideas you have about librarians being unfeeling, cold, automatons.

You will encounter these types of debates in the library world over the never-ending discussion on whether or not comic books or romance novels should be part of the collection. Obviously, there are people who read both and like to see them at the library. Romance novels are, typically, among the most heavily circulated genre in any public library. Comic books are popular with kids, juveniles and some adults. Comics are among some of the most stolen items (oh, excuse me: never returned items) in the library. But some folks think that romances and comics are frivilous trash and have no place in the collection.

The "problem" with romance novels and comic books is that many perceive both as genres that do little to nothing to further an individual's intellectual development. A debatable issue, to be sure.

The real issue is over the purpose of the library. Is the purpose of a library to only further intellectual development? Or, is the purpose to provide access to what people want regardless of any "quality" judgements? Both?

By now, you are wondering what any of this has to do with Catholicism. I'm getting to it.

I theorize that you can see a parallel to the two schools of library thought in liturgical practice.

1) Give the people what they want
2) Give the people what they need

The first involves giving in to demands to change the prescribed practice of the liturgy to anything the parishioners or the liturgy director thinks or wants to see or believes the parishioners want. We want inclusive language: ok, God is now She or It or just God. Male pronouns must be avoided because our "poll" said so or it makes people uncomfortable. Even though we know it's not, technically, allowed the people want it. During the Liturgy of the Word we want readings other than Scripture because the people don't think the Bible is contemporary. Lay people feel excluded so now we have them "helping" the Priest with the Consecration. You get the idea, you've probably all seen this kind of personal desire run amok. I, certainly, have.

The second involves sticking to the prescribed material of the liturgy and the calendar. Regardless of parish polls or what one person, or even several, may say we are not doing anything that jeoperdizes the individual's soul or distorts Holy Mother Church's teachings. People need salvation and we need to give it to them, even if they may not realize they need it.

Is the purpose of the Church to give the people what they want? or what they need? Both?

In the library, I have no problem with romance novels and comic books. There remains, however, the discussion at the library about which particular item may be appropriate or not (sexually, violence etc) and that would be a discussion for an entirely different post. I think people should get what they want, up to a point, from their public library. But, certainly, more freedom to select materials based upon personal desire should be seen at the library then in the Church.

At your parish, it's perfectly fine to have debate-even about dogma and doctrine. However, it's trying to CHANGE or DISTORT dogmas and doctrine that I have a problem with. For example it's fine to discuss: should we paint the church hall walls cream or green? How should we spend our surplus money? Should we carpet or tile the entryway? Where should we put this statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? etc. Again, you can get what you want, up to a point, at your parish. It's also fine to discuss what the church teaches about limbo or if you enjoyed Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth or not. You can discuss inclusive language too, but at the end of the day it should not be implemented if doing so is changing the very nature of God. You can discuss your apprehension about individual Confession but the apprehension should not be used a lever to implement General Absolution only just because some people are uncomfortable with individual Confession.

In my opinion, when it comes to your SOUL there should not be any compromise. Yet, we see, all too often, that there is. I should not be able to get what I want from Catholicism. If I got what I wanted, certain sexual sins would not be mortal sins.

Thank God it's not up to me or we'd all be in grave danger.

Arguments and debates over intellectual development and personal freedom and taste, to me, are ENTIRELY different from salvation.

A lot of people disagreed with my recent posts about attire at Holy Mass. I still maintain that it is disrespectful to attend Mass looking like you are going to play volleyball at the campground or go tanning at the beach immediately after. However, this is a debatable issue because what you have on does not have anything to do with dogma or doctrine. I realize that. However, I still think more people need to make some kind of effort at modesty and appropriatness with their church attire. By and large, I don't see that people are making much, if any, effort. But, as several people pointed out, attire does not speak to your interior disposition or faithfulness.

No librarian will fail to provide recommended reading when the opportunity presents itself. LOL! I recommend you read Mitchell's comment to Karl Keating's e-letter on Stella Borealis and Drew's post on Our Word and Welcome to It.


Blogger swissmiss said...

Maybe "Cafeteria Catholics" are really just "Library Catholics," picking things that are what they want and not what they need ;}
Had to keep with the theme of your great post!
Never thought librarians were automatons. The librarian we had in grade school was one of the best teachers in the building.

June 19, 2007 1:31 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

On behalf of my erstwhile colleague, I thank you for linking to both our pieces. I knew there was a reason I held librarians in such high esteem.

Excellent post, by the way.


June 19, 2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Richie D said...

Just curious-- what are items on the "needs" list? I would imagine they include some staple items as the daily newspaper(s), TIME, NEWSWEEK, National Geographic. What else would be considered as a
"need" item?

June 19, 2007 2:14 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

richie d: "need" may vary by library but, generally, most libraries stock the local newspaper, perhaps the newspaper from the nearest large city (if that's not the same as the local paper) and the major weekly news magazines (as many as they can afford)

June 19, 2007 4:40 PM  
Anonymous L said...

Wow, this post has given me a lot to ponder. I read the links as well.
Hope this isn't straying too off topic...why is it that some parishes seem to care more about implementing inclusive language,(mine does it in the Creed-... born of the Virgin Mary, and became FLESH") than explaining basic dogmas/doctrines? I agree that our priests need to turn their attention to instruction- not just for RCIA candidates, and young people but for all of us who desire it. Most parishoners are presumed to be knowledgable in all aspects of our catholicism, just because we were brought up catholic or baptized/confirmed, and we may not be. I know for a fact from conversations I've had personally with fellow parishioners/friends, that there are misconceptions thought of as "truths". People don't understand/nor research why, for example, women can't be ordained, or priests can't be married in the catholic faith. It'd be great to have "mini-lessons" on certain hot topics. (Of course, I'm assuming that the above instruction would follow proper church teachings/ catechism.)
Great post again. Sorry for the long ramble.
My mom is also a librarian, so she shares many of your opinions as well!:-)

June 19, 2007 5:09 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Good post. I see you managed to get the dress code thing in. I want you to know I do not wear shorts to daily Mass anymore, nor to adoration. I'm very malleable.

Librarians always scared me as a kid - I always felt they were watching me. I lived in fear of being late with my books. I used to bus downtoen St. Paul and hang out at the library, pretending I was El Cid - it seemed like a palace to me. (When I was little!)

Sorry! I know how angry you get when I go off topic on your serious posts.

It's a great post however. I too like Library Catholic as opposed to cafeteria Catholic.

That's all.

June 19, 2007 5:20 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

L: I think I should do a post on religious education.

Terry: I enjoy reading your comments. I always learn something about YOU that I can use to my advantage later. LOL!

June 19, 2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

I vote for "Library Catholics" too.

"Librarians get into really heated arguments over these two ideas. You may find it hard to believe that librarians get animated about anything."

At one time in my life, when my office was across the street from the Stillwater Public Library, I became an avid reader of the Library Journal, the national publication of the Librarians Guild.

I began glancing at it for book reviews, but soon became hooked on the "Letters to the Editor" column.

The battles fought there monthly were an absolutely delight to read. Stereotypically bespectacled, bunned, bow-tied, prim and tight-lipped librarians engaged in out and out editorial warfare with each other on some of the most minor of issues known to mankind.

But they sure knew how to make an argument. And they did it without the crude "ad hominems" so often found today on the internet.

Their "ad hominems" had some literary panache to them.

June 20, 2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Actually? Outward appearance (neatness, cleanliness, an attempt at formality) is a statement to others with a certain amount of semantic content. You are saying "I think Mass is an important occasion" or "Mass is nothing special".

Now, this is not a determining factor. Your interior disposition can be terrible, and your neat exterior a whited sepulchre. But at least you are not giving people the signal "I don't care and you shouldn't either". Contrariwise, your interior disposition could be pious even though your appearance was terrible. But in that case, unless you are so unworldly that appearance honestly never occurs to you, you would think that you would do your best to change your appearance next time to be nicer, out of respect for God.

June 21, 2007 9:54 AM  

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