Friday, February 01, 2008

Library Secret #4 - Weeding

Books are a funny thing. No really. Maybe not books, as much as people who HAVE books in their hands. There is something about books that is sacred to most humans. Here's a little game for you:

I'm going to make a statement. Then I'm going to tell you the first thing most people think when they hear that statement. Then I'll tell you what most librarians think. Mind you, we don't always ACT on these thoughts, but just to give you some insight... Let's see if you are more librarian, or more "People."

"I need a book on dog training"
People: Good idea! My dog is acting up and I can find the answer in a book.
Librarian: Your puppy will eat this book. Trust me. Really.

"I have a set of Encyclopedias from 1975."
People: A collector's item! Wow! I bet the library would want these.
Librarian: Oh, how I wish we had a conveyor belt from our gift book receiving area to the shredder dumpster.

"I have all the National Geographics ever published."
People: These must be saved!
Librarian: Look! Kitty litter!

When asked how my day was by People (not my husband, who knows way more about librarianship than he ever expected to), I will sometimes say, "Well, it was good. I got a lot of weeding done. I sorted through about 500 gift books and added about three to the collection, and I cleared shelf space in the stacks by culling out books that haven't been going out and books that look like someone ran over them with a car, then peed on them."

I smile triumphantly and wait for the well-deserved pat on the back. Instead, I get a puzzled expression and then I get a simple, one word question: "Weeded?" Suddenly, I am faced with a trembling lower lip and big round doe eyes, and I remember that I am talking to "People."

"Oh," I say. Well, er... I umm... well, you know... we don't, you know... throw books away, of course. No... of course not. We ... um... send them to the book sale!" I exhale forcefully as I revel in my skills to not really LIE so much as bend the truth. "You know... even the smelly moldy ones... because, you know... you can't throw books away!" *cough*

And then the People in front of me look relieved and we all chuckle and I realize I need to make a hasty exit before someone catches my lie.

The fact is, we throw books away. Well, we shred them... so they don't end up accumulating in the land fill, but we do get rid of them. That book you snuck back into the book drop after you dropped it in the toilet? Yeah, well... we don't have a miracle cure for that. And guess what! By not fessing up and bringing the thing to us (or even better, throwing it out and just telling us you left it in a hotel in Borneo), you just ruined ten other books in the book drop... and that's on a SLOW day.

We also weed old books that aren't getting read any more. We are no longer the Library at Alexandria. We have computers for that. And we don't have unlimited shelf space. Surely this has happened to you at home... you buy a book, get home, and realize there is no room for it on the shelf in your bookcase. So you go through your books and pull a few out to throw...

Oh, wait... no... you just take them to the library, don't you?

The good news is, we make about a quarter of a million dollars at our booksale every year. People don't want to see those books get thrown out!


Anonymous said...

Our library just directs us to bring our books to the Friends of the Libary Amazing Bookstore! They often have books out front labeled "Free - DON'T BRING BACK!" I take those, then try to sell them. Which doesn't work, so I guess they deserve the AMAZING label, they sure do know what books people don't want! I'm not so rude though that I bring them back. Eventually, I will throw them away. Some day. Maybe when we move. or my kids poop on them. or I'll conveniently leave them out when we get a new dog and act surprised that it ate them.

A Girl From Texas said...

It's amazing how that "you can't throw a book away" mantra gets drilled into our brains. I have boxes of books I really really want to throw away so badly. But the guilt. THE GUILT!

eaf said...

Do it! Do it! Don't be afraid! You will be surprised how good you feel afterwards.

I take mine to a used book store to try to profit off the need for others not to throw them away and to avoid putting them in a landfill. Although I have been known to take them to our shredder at our admin building.

I guess I am part of the problem...

Cathy (from Maryland) said...

My secret book disposal is our local Goodwill. As long as you box it up and lug it over to their drop off facility, they will take ANYTHING. I'm sure they throw some of them away. (Okay, ALL of them!) But my conscience is clean.