Election Section

Commentary: Were Elder-Abuse Items Weeded Out of the Public Library? By HELEN RIPPIER WHEELER

Tuesday June 14, 2005

Appended to the Berkeley Public Library June 8 Action Calendar memo to the Board of Library Trustees from the director of Library Services, Subject: Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Adoption is a “Service View-Adult Services Fiscal Year 2005 Summary.” The second bulleted item consists of the following in toto: 


One of the first big work projects was a thorough weeding of the adult collection; as a whole the collections had not been reviewed for some time and the exercise accomplished much in the way of finding damaged and dated materials, and helped to facilitate ordering new replacement copies for classic titles and completely new material for neglected subject areas. Adult selectors were placed on new teams with the hope of engendering more communication and discussion between branch and Central librarians as we try to find a more holistic approach to building the Berkeley Public Library collections. Librarians also began doing nearly all of their selection with online utilities like Title Source II, and BWI. [sic] 


Last fall I coordinated for/at the North Berkeley Senior Center a well-attended meeting on the subject of elder abuse, as the term is commonly used. I provided a handout that listed resources for this neglected subject area. I have always stressed borrowing books and the accessibility of titles from public libraries, especially “our” Berkeley Public Library. Over the last few months, I have had phone calls and e-mails from persons who attended or who otherwise received a handout copy: They report inability to obtain materials related to elder abuse, in particular woman-related elder abuse. 

I loyally respond with how-to suggestions that include using the Berkeley Public Library catalog. It responds to requests for materials on elder abuse with the news that one should use the established subject-heading: Older people, abuse of. O.K., a cross reference is good thing. But this one provides zero titles! I persevere, suggesting inputting key words elder and abuse, which generates two titles: an Alzheimer’s caregivers’ handbook and a reference book of articles mainly on childhood domestic violence. 

The Alameda County Library system catalog, relying on the same established subject heading and keywording (Boolean algebra) approaches, generates several titles. One, Elder abuse: A Decade of Shame and Inaction, is an antique report from the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care of the Select Committee on Aging; its 1990 publication date is revealing. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler is a Berkeley resident.