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Sunday, June 4, 2017
Why We Purge Books While Others Need Them
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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
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.
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. Recent Posts