Sunday, June 12, 2011

Denver Public Library v. foreign language readers

We are just back in Denver, in time for a weekend that included the Denver Public Library’s annual book sale.We normally enjoy the book sale: a chance to contribute to the library and, at the same time, find some interesting books.

There was an unusual quantity of foreign language books this year, including many Italian ones. Unlike last year, when the Italian books available mostly came from a couple of private donors, this year all of the books came from the library’s own shelves.

I had a bad feeling about that: I thought the library had decided to reduce its Italian collection. I asked a librarian, but it was even worse than I thought: the Denver Public Library has decided to get rid of most foreign language collections in their entirety.

Considering the painful cost-cutting measures the library has to implement (including the planned closure of up to half its branches) I could understand a decision not to purchase foreign language books any longer. But why not keep those they already had, at least until they were in fit conditions for borrowing (and the stamps on the books clearly showed most of them had been borrowed many times from the library)?

So, if you want to read Petrarca, Dante, Goldoni, Calvino, Pavese or Levi in the original, you are out of luck at the Denver Public Library.


  1. What a depressing abdication of responsibility to the public :-(

  2. Hi from England! This is a very good blog. My wife is a professional French translator and I'll pass it on to her. Best wishes, Steve, from Laugh or be Shot

  3. This is truly sad, but I do sympathize with public libraries who are struggling with tight budgets. It's just the world we live in I guess.

  4. That is very strange that they would get rid of the books - not sure how that solves any budget issues. I would understand if they decided not to buy any new foreign language books, but getting rid of books they may have already paid for, seems silly... Libraries are most likely having issues these days, especially with e-readers becoming so popular, but there's still a nostalgia for a good old-fashioned novel.

  5. It is sad to see such things. All over the US libraries are being shut down all together. Reading off of a page and reading off a screen are two totally different experiences. We will have to see what the future holds.


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