Sunday, June 4, 2017

Why We Purge Books While Others Need Them

I met someone the other day who told me in the city that she lives in, the local library is going through its stacks and purging any book that hasn’t been checked out over the past decade.  Not only does this seem like a terrible idea, it may just catch on.

Books seem different from other things. If you told me you haven’t used a toy or worn a pair of pants in a decade, I’d suggest you donate them to someone who will get use out of them.  Of course you can hold onto some items that have sentimental value, but not all of them.  Yet with books, their utility doesn’t seem so linked to age or time.  A good novel, no matter how old it is or long ignored by patrons, could theoretically be read tomorrow – so why get rid of it?

What will happen to the unshelved?  Will they be sold off to a used bookstore? Recycled?  Sent to another library where they again will be ignored or buried in its tombs?

While recently packing my house up (I’m moving), our family of four went through everything in the house.  We decided to donate scores and scores of books.  We realized they were either enjoyable to read or look at but we were unlikely to use them again.  Too many new books stood by to replace them.  Though we felt bad getting rid of them we felt good in finding a new, friendly home for them.

Books can and should be shared.  We hold onto our books because they represent pieces of us – experiences, ideas, dreams, and stories that shape who we are.  But donating books, loaning them to a friend, or giving them as gifts can also be a wonderful experience.

But I do hope that libraries retain their collections and not digitize or destroy older, less popular volumes.  Books are a treasure and as such, they should be stored and protected and made available to others.  Perhaps libraries need to do a better job of highlighting the gems that reside in their cavernous archives.  They can do a better job of rotating books and giving prominent shelf space to the under-used.  Librarians need to encourage and guide patrons to discover and use books that have been tucked away in the shadows of bookshelves.

On the one hand, some people lack access to a nearby library or the library has limited materials and resources.  On the other hand, some libraries are on overload, burdened by the size of their collections.  Some libraries are so filled up they stopped taking book donations.

There are poor families who can’t afford to buy books but don’t find time or encouragement to use the library.  Tens of millions still lack access at home to the Internet or lack a devoted digital reader.  We need to do a better job of bringing books to those in need and to make sure no book goes unused or wasted.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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