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What happens to our old library books? or Why old books are like zombies…

I get asked this question a lot and this article 6 Reasons We’re In Another ‘Book-Burning Period in History by S. Peter Davis (seriously funny and slightly inappropriate so don’t read if you are easily offended) does a great job of explaining the situation.  It starts like this…

The next thing I’m going to say is going to make 80 percent of you want to punch me in the face, so let’s get it out of the way: For the past year or so, part of my job has been to walk through library warehouses and destroy tens of thousands of often old and irreplaceable books.

and gets to the heart of the matter here…

Imagine you’re the manager of a library, and some accountant tells you that you need to get rid of 100,000 books, and do it in a week. You really have two options. One, you can get a bunch of academics to scour your collection and painstakingly rate each book according to its value and importance. Then you can hire a bunch of people to take down the 100,000 least important books and painstakingly stamp and debug them, one by one. Your second option is to get the computer to spit out a list of the 100,000 least borrowed books, and hire a few people to walk down the aisles with their arms out, throwing those books in a shredding machine.
That second option is much quicker and much cheaper. Sometimes you can find a paper recycling centre that will pay you for the pulp, so destroying the books leads to a net profit. Nobody likes it, but for a librarian it’s like your best friend just got bitten by a zombie and you’re the only one with a gun…

Why don’t we just expand or build a bigger library?

Well, the problem is that nobody wants to fund that. As this report on the subject reveals, the institutions in charge of providing funding to libraries are incredibly hesitant to cough up money. A library, after all, doesn’t exactly rake in a profit. When was the last time you went into a library and paid for something? Even the late fees are laughable. So when the library says, “We need money to expand,” the funding bodies adjust their monocles and reply, “Find another way.”

You will never find our books in the dumpster!  And we don’t shred any either.  It is true that we have to discard books that are no longer being checked out because we need the space (we will gladly take donations, endowments, etc. in order to build a bigger library so we don’t have to do this 🙂 )  But the majority of these books go to the Friends of the Library for their booksale and we use the funds to purchase new books.  Books that we don’t think will sell, but that somebody still might want go in our lobby under the free sign.   A tiny percentage of books are donated to a work training center where they are recycled.  And the author did not exaggerate, discarding books does break my librarian heart (the zombie best friend analogy is awesome).
Posted by Jody

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