LAWRENCEVILLE - Charles Dickens might call it a tale of two libraries.
Months after criticism that Gwinnett's library system was catering more toward popular fare than the classics, the shelves are being stocked with the literary masterpieces.
"This section is really a sampling of titles that let our customers know we have some great classics that they might be interested in reading, but there can be many more found in the general collection," Library Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam wrote in an e-mail.
In the past, the library system kept all of its classics interspersed in the fiction section, but patrons asked for a separate section so that favorite authors could be easily located.
Former library director JoAnn Pinder declined to separate the materials before she was fired without cause last summer. She maintained that "classics" was a subjective category, and people could argue which books could be included.
"I don't know if you would call it a change in philosophy or not, but the only change is in how we market the collection or how we make our collection available or easier to find," Stanbery-Kellam said. "The scope of our selecting materials remains the same. We just realized from some of the comments we had received from customers that they were not finding some of the classics we owned. We created the displays and subject headings in an effort to make it easier for customers to find what we have had all along."
Stanbery-Kellam agrees that the genre is hard to formulate, but she decided to select titles based on reading lists and customer requests.
"The term 'classics' is a moving target that lacks a single definition," she said. "This is not a comprehensive collection by any means. I believe we focused on print titles available in the Penguin Classics and Modern Library Classics series and maybe one or two other publishers that are known for their classics titles. We didn't go much beyond titles that were already in the collection."
While the county ordered about 200 titles for the classics sections in each of its 14 branches, other books are still included in the fiction section. The library has created a classics designation in the card catalog system as well as stickers for the book's spine to denote it as a classic.
"The reason we decided to create a separate classics section was simply to make it easier for customers looking for classics to find them, rather than having to hunt for them in the fiction section by author," Stanbery-Kellam said. "While we don't always know who they are, we can assume that many customers are students fulfilling reading assignments but we also know that many readers are adults familiarizing themselves with or revisiting the classics."