All in a day's work: defending book reviews in our catalogue

Posted on Thu 07 May 2009 in Libraries

The following was written in response to a faculty member's complaint that a review containing a negative statement about a book that the faculty member had authored was attached to the book record in our catalogue. The facult member asked that we delete the review from the catalogue because [i]t is inappropriate for the Laurentian library to be highlighting attacks on Laurentian's faculty, undermining their work in the eyes of students and other faculty members.

My response:

On the matter of the reviews that appear as a supplemental part of the Conifer catalogue, we contracted with a third-party supplier of review content that draws from a number of sources.

These reviews are automatically matched to books displayed in the catalogue by correlating their ISBN. There is no selection being performed on the part of the Library, nor is there the ability to select or hide specific reviews for a given book in the catalogue.

It is regrettable that the one review available for your book from our added content supplier should include one negative statement; however, I'm sure you can appreciate my position that it would be an extremely dangerous policy for the Library to deliberately suppress content if said content does not support our institution.

As to your concerns about catalogue browsers confusing the providence of the review, I believe most readers would find the byline "CHOICE Copyright © American Library Association, used with permission." a reasonably clear indication of the source of the review. I agree, however, that the reviewer's name should be included, and will request that our added content supplier make this amendment to their service.

I do empathize with your position on this matter, but I hope that you can see that we are trying to draw from a broad range of review sources, and that these sources are generally considered reputable, and that as a general policy I cannot support hiding reviews that are not uniformly supportive of our institution.

I had expected the addition of third-party reviews to the catalogue to be a universally welcomed enhancement, and I naively failed to anticipate this possibility. In retrospect, it's easy to see that enriched content that helps library users select material might not please everyone. However... just as we wouldn't rip the article out of the pertinent copy of Choice if we had it on our shelves, I think we're perfectly justified in maintaining our third-party reviews in the catalogue.

Have other librarians run across similar complaints?