MPL Throws Books in Dumpster!

Anonymous Patron writes "On April 30, 2005 an anonymous tipster sent
a tip to website about piles of books, still in pretty good shape, being tossed in a dumpster
at the Northeast Branch of Minneapolis
Public Library.

SHHHHHH! Re-use rather than Recycling should
be the first choice for books.

Pictures and text here at"


I'd be curious to hear the other side of the story. The books, from the pictures, don't look like they're in terrible shape, but are there pages missing, mold, bugs, etc? It does seem shameful to throw away books in good condition. If they're books that Friends know won't sell at a sale, a volunteer could cart them to Goodwill at the very least. I don't however think that there's any inherent shame in throwing away books that are completely useless to anyone. Hoping to hear more about this rather sensationalistic story.

No one will buy a 1982 book on canine kidney disease, and a 1999 almanac at an FOL sale won't hurt a bookstore.

When libraries give away these books to the public or sell them to the public do the authors of the books get any benefit? If libraries want to help authors they should be encouraging the sale of new books. All weeded books should be recycled into new paper so the content is destroyed. Libraries should not be stealing from authors.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has gone through similar problems: "The Free Library of Philadelphia has been dumping books by the truckload - 360,000 over the last three years - instead of finding homes for them in schools, recreation centers or anywhere else where people might relish a book of their own." Philadelphia Inquirer headline, March 5, 1997.

We now have a fairly elaborate Books To Go program. It follows a six-week cycle whereby weeded books are first offered for free to city agencies and nonprofit organizations, then for sale to the public, then whatever is left is offererd for free to the public. Anything that is left at the end is then recycled, if it is recyclable, or sent to the landfill. Then it starts all over again.

It definitely does take quite a bit of staff time and resources to administer, though volunteers staff it. There are lots of dates, times, posters, and stickers involved. Every agency has their own space dedicated to "Books To Go", plus there is a large space at the Central Library.

It is a very popular program and does increase goodwill. I'm greatly in favor of reusing materials. I do worry about giving people out- of-date directories. I found 1997 college directories with "Books To Go" stickers in one of our high school libraries. We have free databases available remotely!

We were allowed to give the books to FOL Sale because the money came back to the library system. However, they wouldn't take serials, nor were we allowed to give them away to faculty who may have wanted them. Many hard bound serials couldn't be recycled because of the type of paper. So it was to the dump--but into the dumpster not left out! Regardless of the outcome, disposing of part of a collection is a huge investment of staff time if done properly because of checking for dups, book plates, donors names, other editions, and clearing your records.

That's the problem we face when we weed as a state college: We can't add weeded items to our book sale because that would be "selling" state property. Oddly though, we can give it away on a freebie table, but when you're talking about a 30-year-old encyclopedia set, there aren't many takers.

besides that, there are a lot of libraries that can't give their material away or sell it because it's municipal or state property. that would mean you can't have a book sale or donate them to goodwill, usually, so what else can you do?

According to the web site, the books were in a recycling dumpster, so they were being recycled.

It seems like every so often, someone comes out with an "expose" about how libraries (gasp!) throw books in the dumpster. It happens quite a bit. We dispose of books that are missing pages, damaged, in poor condition, or so out of date that the information isn't accurate (esp. medical books). Our Friends group has a book sale twice a year, and they sell pretty much anything they put out there, but there's no way we'd give them something that's ratty and water-damaged for their sale.

Yeah, it's sad to see books get tossed, but it happens, and usually for a good reason. At least MPL threw the books in a recycling dumpster.

Oversimplification and a quick judgement--on your part, Bessie.

I don't think that the story, website or commentary intended any was simply reflective of a true scenario that APPEARED to be very unfortunate/fishy. Inquiring minds want to know.

If in fact the books were DUMPED, I certainly hope they went into the PAPER RECYCLING program.

Holding booksales costs staff time and money and does not often reap great monetary returns. Shipping books elsewhere is also costly. Remember that every dime spent on those activities is one not spent on new and heavily requested items. Maybe these books were in bad shape, maybe out of date, maybe duplicates, who knows?

Sometimes weeding is necessary and other options besides dumping are not feasible.

Sounds like you want to ban libraries altogether, since every lent book is a loss of a potential sale.

I bet you'd like to come up with a way that people could be charged for every page they looked at, every time. That would surely help the authors! (Except, uh, the authors had to sign away their rights to B. F. Corporation to get published in the first place. Oops.)

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