Cover image for Vandals in the stacks? : a response to Nicholson Baker's assault on libraries
Vandals in the stacks? : a response to Nicholson Baker's assault on libraries
Cox, Richard J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
219 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z687 .C75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Libraries and archives have violated their public trust, argues Nicholson Baker in his controversial book ^IDouble Fold^R, by destroying traditional books, newspapers, and other paper-based collections. Baker's powerful and persuasive book is wrong and misleading, and Cox critiques it point by point, questioning his research, his assumptions, and his arguments about why and how newspapers, books, and other collections are selected and maintained.

^IDouble Fold^R, which reads like a history of libraries and archives, is not a history at all, but a journalistic account that is often based on fanciful and far-flung assertions and weak data. The present book provides an opportunity to understand how libraries and archives view their societal mandate, the nature of their preservation and documentary functions, and the complex choices and decisions that librarians and archivists face. Libraries and archives are not simple warehouses for the storage of objects to be occasionally called upon by a scholar, but they play vital roles in determining and shaping a society's knowledge and documentation.

Author Notes

Richard J. Cox is Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Novelist and essayist Baker burst onto the library scene with his famous (infamous?) 1994 New Yorker essay attacking libraries for discarding old card catalogs. In 2000, Baker attacked libraries for discarding old newspapers, also in The New Yorker, and then a year later in his book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (Random, 2001). Archivist and University of Pittsburgh professor Cox began responding to Baker early on, first with some sympathy regarding the historical value of our old catalogs but then with growing dismay at Baker's "save everything" mentality. The Society of American Archivists requested an answer to Baker's book, and that grew into this book. Unlike Baker's work, which was aimed at the general public, Cox's response is aimed at professional librarians and archivists. This is a valuable book for anyone who is queried about Baker's attacks. Baker has sounded an alarm, inspiring significant public concern. Here are the foundations for a calm, reasoned, professional response. --James D. Anderson

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 Life Imitates Art?p. 11
2 The Big Picture and Baker's Worldp. 31
3 Why Can't the Paper Keepers Keep All the Paper?p. 49
4 Newspaper Warehousesp. 73
5 Wrong Prioritiesp. 93
6 The Real Thingp. 111
7 Burning Libraries, Discards, Card Catalogs, Nicholson Baker, and Library Historyp. 129
8 Persistent Imagesp. 147
9 Mundane Mattersp. 171
10 Mom, I Harass Monks (Too)p. 189
Indexp. 213