Conflict & Pain of Throwing Books Away

search-engines-web guy dug up an article about a Massachusetts public library that has run out of space for new books. As a result, they've had to throw away weed deselect older books from the collection to make room for the new books coming in. They can't stop buying new books, even if they wanted to. In order to get state funding, they must spend 19% of their budget on new materials.

"Throwing away books is the worst thing a library can do," Robertson said.
"We try to pursue every option we can before we throw a book away," Bachtold added. "We're librarians."


If they are so outdated, of such poor quality, or otherwise so unwanted that they can't be given away to another library or sold to the firms that buy that sort of thing then they should be thrown away.

Weeding a collection is part of being a librarian. If you want to save everything then you should have become an archivist. No good library can survivie without periodic weeding. Really, do you truly need six copies of each of Danielle Steel's books; (and they have stuff from 1986 from her in their catalog) do you need Tim LaHaye crashing down on your head because you kept each and every volume that you had ever acquired?

If you don't weed you can't add current authoratative material to your non-fiction collection nor can you add popular works to your fiction collection. Weeding is as important as anything else a librarian does.

The trustee that made the remark "Throwing away books is the worst thing a library can do," simply has no clue. It is too bad that people like that dictate library policy.

At least 19% won't buy what it used to, so fewer books per year will need to be thrown out as time goes on.

Sometimes throwing away books is the best thing a librarian can do. There are many subject areas where rapid changes quickly render books obsolete. If a book has incorrect information it does not need to be used unless it is in a specific collection on the history of the discipline. The decision to discard a book isn't one I make lightly, but it isn't one I lose any sleep over either. If a book has outlived its usefulness it doesn't need to be in the collection.

One of my concerns is that nowhere did the article mention if the building or shelving is adequate for the needs of the community. It's one thing to weed out-dated or damaged material, it's another to be weeding books that still have a shelf life simply because there isn't space for them.

I always found "weeding" very distasteful, and if done right it is extremely time consuming. We checked for donor plates, multiple copies (keep the one in the best shape), valuable art work, historic value, authorship (of faculty), and age. Sending things to the booksale was OK--at least the book had a chance at a second life. But one year I had to get rid of 10,000 bound journal volumes. These were duplicates for other locations on campus (biology, pharmacy, medicine), and the Friends Book Sale would not sell journals; and the state funding laws prevented giving them away. There was no money to send that much weight to another library, and no staff to track down one that wanted old medical journals. It was "to the dump." Not only did I develop rotator cuff problems (selecting the deselects), but I became ill. For a librarian, it's as much fun as drowning puppies.

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