Thursday, April 24, 2014

Library Policy

Yesterday I saw an article posted on Facebook regarding the recent purging of books done by a University Library.  The comments under the posting were uninformed, inflammatory remarks designed (I believe) to make the person writing them seem like a "better person" because they so obviously love books and are repulsed by the idea of them being destroyed.

I clicked the link and watched the video it led me to, then went back and read over the comments again.  I was immediately struck by the fact that if anyone who wrote those comments... including the friend of mine who posted the link in the first place... that a conversation could be started-and someone could learn something.

I wrote the following as a response to the video as well as the stupid comments listed beneath it, but that was after I watched the video...  which is available HERE

I used to work at a library, and the criteria for what goes on the shelves and what stays on the shelves is actually very logical.  Unfortunately any time a library has to purge books they run the risk of people making a mountain out of a mole hill.  The headline for this alone is inflammatory.  The books are in a dumpster.  This gives the impression that they'll just be thrown away when in fact they're recycling them.  Many of the books are out-dated and have information that is no longer relevant-or simply wrong.  Then there are the books that are so worn and in such bad shape that repairing them costs more than replacing them...  but people don't like to see any book get "thrown away."  If libraries never did this they would be full of ancient musty books that had no useful information.  There would be no room for the fifteen copies of Divergent they have to keep on hand until the hub-bub dies down and all fifteen aren't out on loan with a waiting list a hundred people deep.  There would be no room for the latest information and the updated reference section...  everything in the library would be wrong, old, incorrect...  useless.

There are always "better" ways for libraries to dispose of their outdated and damaged material but they often don't choose those ways due to lack of funds or lack of time.  Also, a lot of libraries have tried to re-home the books via book sales or simply giving the books away...  but then nobody wants the books, unless they're getting thrown away.

I don't know why so many people believe that libraries have infinite storage space and keep every single book that ever passes through their doors.  It's sad that books have to go, but sometimes they do.  Instead of news stories about how sad it is and how distraught people are why doesn't someone take the time to do a piece about what the new material is?  How the library had to get rid of some things... to make room for all these awesome books that are more relevant to the times we live in, that have updated information, that will be used... 

The same friend who posted the video has posted things in the past that made me scratch my head and wonder what planet she and her friends live on.  In the past I've commented, informing them that their information is incorrect, or their emotional response is irrational when you stop and think about it...  but I always get shot down and belittled.  I suppose that's the danger of trying to tell a bunch of people who are a generation older than you that their wrong.  They gang up on you and pat you on the head, placate you and talk over your head about how ignorant and naive you are.

I know how those folks who understood that the world was a sphere felt back when most folks thought the planet was a pancake. 

So those are my thoughts on libraries purging their shelves, it's necessary and if you want to view it as evil then please be my guest.  But next time you toss out a book, remember.

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