Libraries getting rid of books

WGBH takes a look at the Boston Public Library's push to get rid of books that people no longer check out - and why not everybody agrees with it.



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    I often find my self looking at random outdated books in the library if I'm there for other reasons, often spending time looking at the book but never checking them out. I remember a book on 19th century how-to masonry that was probably never checked out but was really interesting (this was at the Brookline main branch many years ago).

    But there does seem to be a lot of useless (at least to me) books on library shelves which probably should be taken somewhere if there isn't any more space.


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    Need to make room for video games.

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    "The intention is not just to hoard everything that you can possibly stash away," he said. "Your job is to provide things that the community wants that have an interest in and make it easy for them to find."

    I like the idea of the library being a repository of knowledge. If you want entertainment, look someplace else. Some books will lie fallow until someone finds a need. That's just how it is.

    I blame the hipster ethic and influence. It's ok for some things to be boring instead of interesting, ok guys?


    academia loves old books

    Last week I checked out a book from the Harvard library that was published in 1953 and had never been checked out before. I know, it's an academic library and that's different, but I was still surprised.


    Same here. Took out a pair

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    Same here. Took out a pair of books from Widener published in 1925. One never checked out and the other had only been checked out 1926.

    As a librarian I can say that

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    As a librarian I can say that it is unlikely the book you found had never been checked out.

    It's more likely that the card in the back became full at some point and was replaced with a fresh one.

    Academic libraries weed regularly to keep up with advances in information, just as all circulating libraries do. Aside from demands on space, which are never-ceasing, just because it was once published as a book does not mean it needs to be immortalized forever.

    In order to remain relevant, all businesses and institutions must change - hopefully wisely.


    But many of the books being

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    But many of the books being weeded are perfectly accurate and in good shape. They just aren’t being checked out. The BPL is targeting books that haven’t circulated for four to six years.
    ...."None of the books in the research library circulate, that doesn’t mean those books aren’t being used," Vieira said.

    I work at a library, and we have separate metrics to track books that were used but not checked out of the library. I'd imagine that BPL also tracks this, and would be looking at those numbers when making decisions about what to get rid of. If a book has never been checked out, never been found off the shelf, isn't unique in some way, and the staff don't believe that it adds to the collection, isn't that enough? How else can you figure out what stays and what goes?


    So what it they don't circulate

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    Does it make sense for the libraries mission to have these books available? Also, As others have said, I have spent a lot of time in libraries looking at books that I don't check out. I'd hate to lose them.

    Have you been to the Athenaeum?

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    Just wandering around one corner of the basement last week, I wandered by some politics books from the '30s with a common theme of "Can we trust this new guy in Germany?", a bunch of travelogues from the early 20th century written by the rich and the bored, and a folio that turned out to be a play in German published in 1750. I don't think they throw anything away - some of the real uncirculating stuff is moved offsite, but I could have taken any of the above home with me...

    We could build a bigger

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    We could build a bigger library or proper archival storage (a central book depository) for the closed stacks. Right now many books and documents aren't properly stored in climate controlled environments or flat files which is slowly destroying them.

    They aren't paying attention

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    The thing is the culling is happening first - once it is down to what they think is a "proper" level, then they will do an inventory to find out which books in the collection are lost and should have been counted as "culled" in the first place.

    There is a central book depository that if you look at the online card catalog you should be able to get a book from, however if you actually try to get a book from it, nine times out of ten, the system won't let you - it will come up as "not circulating - you can only see it on site. In the *offsite storage*!

    Thank heavens that the Malden Public Library is part of the BPL circulation system. Most of the books that come via branch hold comes from them!

    At least the latest press release from the BPL says that they are sending books to to be scanned as backup. With the current copyright law in place, the books being culled this year should all be available on the internet on the first day of the 22nd century!

    Uh huh

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    We sometimes don't put a big enough budget just to keep the libraries open and operating and you think we should build bigger ones?

    Keep dreaming, this is "the Athens of America" not Athens.

    This drove me nuts when I

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    This drove me nuts when I worked part-time at my town library in high school, and was given the task of "weeding" any book that hadn't been checked out in 5 years.

    The shelves weren't close to full. And there were no plans to fill the emptied space with anything else. This only happened because one of the librarians decided that people in our town weren't interested in old books.

    I ended up subverting this plan by checking out a good proportion of the books myself.


    Old Best Sellers

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    I wonder how many of the discarded books consist of "hot" bestsellers that the library had to purchase in order to meet demand and 15 minutes of fame later, everyone has forgotten about. (Though if I look up, say, "Fifty Shades of Grey" in the Minuteman network, there are over 30 copies and most of them are out...)