In preparation for a spring purging in our school library, I recently reread Julie Goldberg’s reverent post I Can’t Believe You’re Throwing Out Books again this week. I suppose that I needed to thicken my skin thickened a little; keep up the resolve to start pulling; it was a desperately needed pep talk before absorbing the stings and arrows of our school community bibliophiles.
In my brief four and a half years as the teacher-librarian I have come to get a strong feel on what is circulating, what isn’t, and in both cases, why. And I know that there will be comments like “There goes Yasinchuk again throwing away books” or the classic, “Don’t stand too long next to Yasinchuk you might get thrown out.” And how about ” What are you doing throwing out the whole library?” Ah, no.
But, see there’s the misunderstanding…
I’m not throwing out anything. Not books. Not ideas. Not thoughts. I am removing them from our collection because they have been deemed irrelevant and dated by simply a lack of circulation. The process is called culling. Much like the seal or deer cull it is done with intent: to thin the herd of books that are been ignored. Admittedly, culling is done in a somewhat subjective/objective format. Science-based nonfiction books, for instance, have (and serve) their specific purpose but in many (most) instances they quickly (or eventually) become relics of the past. Why should a library be forced to hang on to these relics?
I always attempt to find a home for the vast majority of the books that are culled. Our annual book-a-penny sale always raises some much needed funds for the school library, while finding a home with a bibliophile. Huge boxes of books go into the staffroom plastered with our “free to a good home” sign. Our websites (library and school) advertise books available for donation. And of course, there is always 10% of every cull that end up in the recycling bin.
True bibliophiles are supporters of libraries and not just books. The pressure has become obvious and the digital realm has started to evolve the way we interact with text (and books for that matter). And Goldberg acknowledges that
“Civilization is in a fraught historical moment in our relationship with our books. As reading declines in each successive generation, and as content moves increasingly into digital form, we venerate the object of the book more.”
Within this hurricane of change and evolution, no truer words were every spoken…
And the more that I ruminate about the purpose of a school library collection the more that I begin to believe that it would be incumbent for me to create a lively, vibrantly fresh library. A collection of want-to-reads. A gathering of (mostly) fiction books with shorter shelf-lives that circulate frequently, require frequent replacement, and rack up a borrowers-to-be on the ‘reserve’ list. These are the books that will make up future collections of school libraries.
One copy of Anna Karenina is adequate. Two copies of Robert Heinlen’s World as Myth series? Completely unnecessary.