Danielcornwall – Right after I read this post, I got the original story from a non-librarian friend on Facebook asking me to agree that this was terribly shameful. As part of my response to him, I found the newly posted discards FAQ. I think part of the bad publicity came from the fact they centralized their disposal service, which allowed the whole system’s discards to be photographed together.
The policies seem reasonable to me. I wanted this attached to all the great discussion that laura-in-libraryland has been collected.
This is probably the last time I’ll be mentioning the issue of discards unless information comes to light that the discard policy wasn’t followed.
Some librarians in Fairfax County are tossing library books that barely have any wear and tear.
I haven’t seen this on Tumblr yet so I wanted to share to see what the Tumblarian thoughts were on this issue.
We get rid of books that are falling apart or have outdated information, yes, but we also get rid of books that don’t circulate. I just got rid of a book that has been in our system for 7 years and circulated four times in that time period. The last time was three years ago. This book was in gorgeous condition, it was fiction so the information wasn’t out dated, but nobody wanted to read it. If the public doesn’t want to read the books, why have them on the shelves? If libraries never got rid of books then we would never get new books.
Books aren’t kittens, it’s okay to throw them away.
It’s essential to weed out material that doesn’t circulate in favor of providing shelf space for new books that might be of more interest to patrons. The one library I interned at did yearly weeding and got rid of things that hadn’t been out in five years. It makes no sense to keep things that people aren’t interested in.
I agree with everyone on the weeding- it has to be done for the collection to remain relevant. However, my professor in library school used to tell us stories of public librarians pitching books into dumpsters at midnight so as not to be caught because people freak out when their “tax dollars are thrown away.” I recognize now that the public opinion of weeding is different than the librarian’s understanding and it can be bad PR if not handled well (not that these people handled it wrong, I am just saying in general.
When books are in good condition, I think it’s important to make a good faith effort to give them away. Our library doesn’t discard books until we’ve offered them on our state libraries mailing list. Libraries with Friends stores might want to ship their discards there.
Even if you wind up throwing stuff away, having a documented process that shows you tried to adopt them out will offer your library protection against charges of being wasteful.
If you haven’t been thoroughly frustrated today, make sure you check out the comments section of the article where helpful citizen suggest we send our outdated science and travel books to poor countries!
In response to lecieltumultueux:I should clarify that “good condition” includes “not so outdated to be useless.” No one is served by outdated science. Outdated travel could be useful to collections studying perceptions of regions changing over time. But that’s not sending it to a public library in Nairobi – usually.
I love how passionate we all are about providing access to info, and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions on the matter.
It seems that we are generally in consensus that weeding needs to happen. The majority of us believe we need to make a best effort to ensure that usable library discards have a second life (unless policies forbid it, which is an important issue to acknowledge. )
I agree with many of you who pointed out that it is impossible to know why these particular books were “trashed;” we need to give the Fairfax librarians the benefit of the doubt until we hear from them and learn why the decisions were made.
For me, the best part of this thread has been the “non-library” folks who have read it and learned a bit more about our profession. I think we need to keep raising these types of issues publicly so more is known about libraries and how they operate so thanks and keep up the good work!
Great, nuanced discussion about a sensitive topic that sometimes seems like the dirty secret of librarianship. We need to make weeding, like everything else we do, better & more broadly understood by our communities. It’s not “throwing away tax dollars”, it’s a key part of building and maintaining a collection that has value and usability for the people we serve.
The discarded books have opened a broader discussion about the library’s long-term plan, which would eliminate the requirement for fully trained librarians, reduce branch staff and cut the amount of time children’s librarians spend helping families inside their libraries.
The plan has drawn criticism from current and former library employees as well as patrons, who say it reduces services and jobs. The critics also say that public and employee input was limited before a test version of the plan was launched.
Clay, who has been head of the Fairfax library system for 31 years, defended his plan as necessary to deal with declining budgets and to remake libraries in the digital age. The strategic plan lists the first part of its “future direction” as transitioning from “a print environment to a digital environment.”
Clay has proposed hiring librarians who may not have master’s degrees to run branches, hiring people without bachelor’s degrees to staff the libraries, and having children’s librarians spend 80 percent of their time devising and running outreach programs instead of working in the libraries. He said jobs would be eliminated by retirements and attrition, not by layoffs.
Have they never heard of organizations like betterworldbooks.com? Geez. There are so many additional ways to creatively weed collections and disburse those items in the community to give them a second life.
More Virginia library articles are emerging: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/-virginia-county-library-system-destroyed-250-000-of-its-own-books-205951078.html