Collection Development Goes to the Movies

You know you’re a librarian when you’re watching Return to Peyton Place and spend your time thinking about its connection to collection development. Allison Mackenzie, the heroine of Peyton Place (albeit played by another actress–practically all the roles were recast), has written a tell-all potboiler about her not-so-innocent home town. Her stepfather happens to be the principal at the local high school. And he decides “wow, what a fine work of literature! Let’s buy it for the high school library!” Unfortunately for the principal, the amazing and underrated Mary Astor happens to think the book is smut and vigorously campaigns to have it banned. So now Carol Lynley (Allison MacKenzie) and Jeff Chandler (Allison’s publisher) have to defend the book. There are all sorts of trashy subplots (Mary Astor totally rocks) and for a sequel, the film is kind of fun.

But I digress. Not that you expect the fine folks in Hollywood to care about the accurate portrayal of librarians–remember Mary’s “fate worse than death” in It’s a Wonderful Life?, but why exactly is the high school principal doing selection? Does he do this for all the books? Am I seriously supposed to believe that in addition to his administrative duties and smooching with Eleanor Parker he spends his time building up the library collection? Do they not have a school library media specialist in Peyton Place? They have a fancy dress shop. They’ve got about 4 churches. They also have some kind of mill or factory, alcoholics, venereal disease-ridden whackos, a number of folks from the wrong side of the tracks, and some really, really messed-up citizenry. But no librarian.

They also have no collection development policy. The principal has nothing with which to back up his purchase except righteous indignation and the fact that he’s married to the author’s mother.

So I tried explaining to my friend who was watching this dreck with me that all of this could have been prevented or mitigated with a good collection development policy.

My friend didn’t get it. In fact, the reaction was pretty much identical to the one I got when I denounced the behavior and skill level of the archivist character in Attack of the Clones. “It’s only a movie,” is what I was told…

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