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Talk of the Town: Library Director Joe Galbraith

The director tells Patch what he'd add to the library if money was no object, what everyone should be reading right now, and why the Internet is dangerous (looking at you Wikipedia).

Moorestown Patch: The calls for the removal of part of the collection. You said the initial number was 20,000-30,000. Township manager Scott Carew thinks that could shrink. But you're going to lose something. How painful is that?
Joe Galbraith: Well as a librarian, of course you don’t want to get rid of anything. You purchase and build a collection for specific reasons. Librarians purchase books for the public and choose very carefully … and we feel that we built a collection over the years that accurately reflect the needs and the wants of the community. So in an ideal world, of course you wouldn’t want to get rid of anything that you collect … No one wants to do it, but we also understand the realities of the situation.

Patch: If you could add one feature to the new library—at no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer—that’s not already in there, what would it be?
Galbraith: That’s kind of a trick question, because part of the current way the plan is structured, it includes all those elements that we initially wanted and thought we needed to remain there as long as we were willing to pare down some of the collection … We’ve created a building program that will adequately suit the needs of the community now and in the future. The only thing I would add that it doesn’t have if I could have anything, and money was no object? More square footage.

Patch: What has been, in your opinion, the single greatest factor that has led to the downturn in library usage—, but nationally?
Galbraith: It’s not as much a downturn as it is a public perception, and that is the evolution and the rise of the Internet and the perception of the public that they are now fully capable of performing self-reference. That everything is out there on the Internet and if it’s on the Internet it’s there for them to use. But keep in mind the Internet is also the world’s biggest soapbox. People can, and do, get on there and say anything as fact. Librarians choose print collections and reference materials based on that material’s ability to provide accurate and thorough information and a librarian is to help those individuals decipher what’s accurate and what is bunk … I’m also a college professor. I teach at Drexel University. And I make it very clear on the first day of classes: If you so much as even mention Wikipedia as a source in any paper you write for me, you get an F.

Patch: Everyone keeps talking about the "library of the future" in reference to the new library. Let’s look 50, 100 years into the future. What do libraries look like?
Galbraith: I could speak from the last 35 years, and I remember when I was in library school—or even before I was in library school, I worked as a library assistant—and we were talking then about the paperless library. The paperless society. If anything, we’re generating more paper than ever. I’ve been hearing for the last 10 years that electronic data will replace print. That hasn’t happened yet and it’s not likely to happen soon. 50 years from now? I think print will still be around, but I don’t think it will be the primary source for people to access information.

Patch: I’m sure you’ve read thousands of books in your life. But if you had to pick one that was the most impactful, what would it be?
Galbraith: Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. The ultimate anti-war novel. Dalton Trumbo as a result of that book was blacklisted from Hollywood. He was one of the most popular screenwriters in Hollywood, and he was outed during the McCarthy era as a Communist for that book. I grew up during the Vietnam War and it really sparked my anti-war feelings.

Patch: Name a book-to-film adaptation that’s actually better than the book.
Galbraith: Blade Runner. Best movie ever made … It’s an OK short story, but it’s a great movie.

Patch: What should everyone be reading right now? What’s the last really good book you read?
Galbraith: I read non-fiction. I’m not a fiction reader. The last decent book I read was the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s a good book. I would recommend that book, because I don’t think the public in general really knows (who Jobs is). He was not that nice a guy.

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