Where are the library books going?

April 11, 2012

I am a lifelong resident of Rockford, a frequent library patron and a lover of books. What is happening now at the Downtown Branch is nothing less than a crime against not only the people of this community, but against the concept of library itself. We all know about the threat to the library system since out-of-town Director Frank Novak was given a blank check by the library board to overhaul it. What many do not know is that books are already disappearing from library shelves in massive numbers from the Downtown Branch. Library personnel have testified to this, and a walk through the second and third floors makes this plundering easily visible. Here is a link to a picture of empty shelves on the second floor: http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/s320x320/524128_10151506759125145_898020144.

Where are the books going? What criteria is being used to get rid of them? What accountability is there? This despicable activity is being swept under the rug. These books are NOT the private collection of Novak and the Board … they belong to the CITIZENS OF ROCKFORD and have been paid for by OUR MONEY! It is unbelievable to the point of parody. What library system trashes their own books in secret?

I have already contacted Mayor Larry Morrissey about this issue and have also gotten in touch with Kent Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association. I’m also trying to get Occupy Rockford involved. This issue should be of great importance to anybody who loves books and libraries. I know e-books are part of the equation today, but this behavior is OUTRAGEOUS! I’ve also heard that plans are already in place to rent out parts of the Downtown Library once it’s been emptied of its most valuable resource.

I have put up with a lot of dismal activity in Rockford over the years, but this is the end. I have no intention of living in a community so backward, so totally bereft of respect for history, culture and learning. The city is beyond saving if this lunatic activity continues. I urge all citizens to get involved.

Mike Korn
Loves Park

From the April 11-17, 2012, issue


  1. Dave

    April 12, 2012 at 8:42 am

    it’s a travesty, if true. i don’t live in rockford anymore, thank god. good luck on your mission!

  2. Susan

    April 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

    The letter is true. For some reason, the library director and board will not listen to the community. They forget that many people do not want to, cannot afford to, or cannot use E-readers and want a variety of materials. The board ignored the no confidence vote. Such a shame. More discrimination against the poor and others who prefer traditional materials. The same short-sighted support only the far east stupidity that rules Rockford. The Board meetings are held at the East Branch soon to be the main branch and only branch the way things are going.

  3. Peter

    April 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    We have many stats and a lot of information about the library on our website at: http://www.rockfordpubliclibrary.org. Our Collection Stats report that the collection in 2010 numbered 579,055 items. In February of 2012 that number is 595,051. The collection has grown since 2010. The 2012 number does not include an additional 30,000 classic e-books and 139 reference e-books. We serve all residents and many patrons are requesting e-books, the number is increasing month by month. Please stop trying to alarm the public by your eroneous claims.

  4. caitlin

    April 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Where in the heck are Mike and Susan getting their information?
    Are you paying ANY attention?
    And if you don’t even live in Rockford — like Mr. Korn, who lives in Love Park — stay out of the discussion.

  5. Sam

    April 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Mr Novak is a kind and considerate manager. He has implemented many positive programs and opportunities for his entire staff. He has managed the budget and the opening of the East Branch well. He has had positive evaluations and the union did not file any grievance or complaint against Mr. Novak before their vote. We have over 90 employees, 31 voted no confidence…all union members. Mr. Novak has complete authority to weed the collection. All libraries weed their collections. Please educate yourselves before you continue to upset people for no reason.

  6. RPL

    April 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    While Rockford Public Library appreciates the passion for libraries displayed by Mr. Korn, his commentary is misinformed. Attached is information distributed by Rockford Public Library at the last Board of Trustees meeting. Additional information on collection size, monthly weeding, new materials purchased (both electronic and print) and more is available on our website under About Us/Board of Trustees/Board Minutes and Other Board Documents.


    A community values a library for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most important is its collection. Several factors are taken into account when measuring the health of a public library collection including the size, turnover rates and overall relevance of materials to the community at large. Given recent interest in RPL’s collection and misinformation that has circulated regarding the weeding of the collection, here are some important facts about your Rockford Public Library.

    FACT: The library’s physical collection has grown since 2010.
    While much attention has been paid to the growth of the e-book collection in recent months, it is important to recognize that the library’s physical collection has grown as well. In 2010, Rockford Public Library had 580,787 items and in February of 2012, that number was 582,072. The physical collection had a net gain of 1,285 items. This does not include over 12,000 purchased e-book titles now available to RPL customers.

    FACT: Public libraries must weed their collections in order to maintain a healthy collection.
    Studies of public libraries have shown that collection size alone does not predict overall circulation rates. Very often, libraries with smaller collections can enjoy extremely high circulation rates when they weed titles regularly to make room for current, popular and more relevant titles.

    Collections are not static and weeding should be an ongoing process to ensure public access to the most current materials and the best use of limited shelf space. In making weeding decisions, libraries often use the M.U.S.T.Y. criteria—is information Misleading or outdated, is an item Ugly or damaged, has the title been Superseded, does it have Trivial scholarly merit and does it satisfy Your customers (has it circulated)? All of these questions help staff members weed the library’s collection based on the physical condition, accuracy, quality and relevance of materials.

    RPL Policy 4.4 requires that “staff routinely examines the collection and removes materials which are no longer of value.”

    FACT: A recent report of RPL’s collection showed over 10,000 titles that have not circulated since May of 2004.
    While weeding is an ongoing process, even the most diligent of libraries will have titles that remain in the collection despite being grossly outdated, inaccurate or irrelevant to the community. A recent report showed 10,784 items currently in the RPL collection that have not circulated since May of 2004. Ideally, any item that has not circulated in the past three years should be evaluated for its continued relevance to the collection. Given this criteria, we would expect an even higher figure.

    FACT: Rockford Public Library’s physical collection exceeds the national per capita average and is in line with the Illinois average.
    According to an IMLS study released in October 2011, the national average for the per-capita size of a physical materials collection is 2.75. With a population of 152,871, Rockford would require a physical collection with 420,395 items. As of February 2012, RPL held 582,072 items—well above the national average. Illinois, which is ranked number #16 among all 50 states and the District of Columbia for per-capita physical items, has an average of 3.85 items. Despite being well above the national figure, RPL’s collection is in-line with the state average.

    FACT: Rockford Public Library’s physical collection turnover rate (total circulation/items in the collection) is in line with the national average.
    The national public library turnover rate is 2.6. Rockford Public Library’s physical collection turnover rate in 2011 was 2.67 (1,548,293 circulations/580,608 items in the collection). By weeding irrelevant and outdated information and replacing it with current, popular materials we can improve that figure even more.

    FACT: The final responsibility for collection development lies with the Director of the Library.
    According to RPL’s policy 4.1 which was approved by the Board of Trustees in July 2005, “Final responsibility for collection development lies with the Director of the Library.” The Director may appoint staff members to assist in the day-to-day decisions with regard to the collection, but ultimately, it is within the Director’s role and responsibility to manage the collection as directly/indirectly as s/he sees fit. This may include selection, weeding, policy-setting and collection development philosophies.

    FACT: The Executive Director personally weeded just 2% of the overall materials weeded from the collection in 2011.
    In 2011, 48,234 items were weeded from Rockford Public Library’s collection (48,055 items were added to the collection in that same time frame). The Executive Director, Frank Novak, weeded 1,701 titles in categories for which he is uniquely qualified including legal and business/finance. Mr. Novak is the only RPL staff member who holds not only a Master of Library Science degree, but a Juris Doctorate (graduate degree in law) and professional experience in business and finance.

    FACT: All weeded materials undergo a secondary review before withdrawn from the library.
    Items pulled from the collection by any staff member undergo a secondary peer review before being formally withdrawn from the collection. Even materials weeded personally by the Executive Director were reviewed by the Manager of Collection Development (who also holds and MLIS degree) before being withdrawn.

    FACT: The library makes every attempt to responsibly dispose of materials weeded from the collection.
    Materials weeded from RPL’s collection are first sent to the Friends of Rockford Public Library, a separate 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds to support the library’s programs and services through book sales in shops at the Main and East Branch Libraries, online and at semi-annual events. Any items that are not suitable for re-sale by the Friends or donation to other local charities are recycled appropriately.

    FACT: A library does not want full shelves.
    A full shelf is not an indicator of a healthy library collection. In fact, when items are popular and circulating regularly, they rarely sit on a library shelf. Ideally, when a library plans space to accommodate its full collection, it includes leaving around 25% of the shelf space open if it plans on maintaining the collection size. As materials circulate, the amount of open shelf space will fluctuate to even greater percentages.

    For logistical reasons, it is important to have plenty of space on shelves to allow for easy paging of books, face-out presentation of titles (much like what bookstores do to highlight certain titles/authors), and convenient browsing of the titles available for customers. (Have you ever searched for a title among a shelf packed with books?) RPL avoids using the top and bottom-most shelves of our units, putting titles within convenient reach of all of our customers.

    Rockford Public Library also uses a ‘floating collection’ method of circulation. Items may be returned to the shelves of the branch where the item is returned or routed to another location versus items having permanent home locations. An empty shelf at one location does not mean resources are not available; it means they may be on shelves at other locations. Using our online catalog or helpful staff to browse the collection, identify where titles are currently available and place holds is the best way to determine what holdings the library has available.

  7. Peter

    April 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Mike Korn lives in Loves Park. His property taxes in Loves Park do not support the library. He does not have a library card or a recipricol library card, therefore he does not use the Rockford library. What is his agenda and why is he trying to inflame people in this way against the library?

  8. marie pizarro

    April 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Information should be available in all formats. Why is Mike Korn so interested in what happens in Rockford? Loves Park is under his name. E-readers and E-books are available at other libraries in the area. Why all the focus on Rockford Public Library?

  9. Collin

    April 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Since Mr. Korn lives in Loves Park, I guess he has not lived in our “Rockford” community for some time! I don’t think regular Rockfordians care at all if the library throws away tattered old books.

  10. Jen

    April 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Dear Susan, Mr. Korn is not a Rockford resident, his property taxes in Loves Park do not support the library and he does not have a Rockford library card. Therefore he is not a user of the library. The materials collection is larger today than in 2010. This information is located on our website at: http://www.rockfordpubliclibrary.org. There is no “massive” weeding of materials going on. This is a falsehood. The library board and executive director have listened extensively to this group and their concerns. Many people in our community do want e-Readers and access to digital material. Our requests for this material is increasing. We will loan e-readers to patrons just as we provided computers and Internet access to our patrons. We also are currently offering e-book training. We strive to offer a wide variety of materials for ALL people; books, CDs, DVDs, downloadable music and books, information databses, etc. We do not discriminate against any group of people.

  11. Jen

    April 20, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I am curious why the SOL group is not posting and blocking information sent to their blog which corrects their misinformation and responds to their erroneous charges and half truths?

  12. Susan

    April 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Peter and Jen, how do you know that Mr. Korn does not have a library card. Did you look him up in your database? That is illegal in the state of Illinois.

  13. Collin

    April 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I think since Mr. Korn lives in Loves Park, he should be a lot more interested in issues at the North Suburban Library than in Rockford’s library system. Unless he’s one of those who just likes to get attention by complaining. I wish the people attacking the library would devote their energy to something positive: tutor a child, volunteer at a soup kitchen, mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn, etc. That would be time better spent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>