Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Library Books

Here's a good post from Eric Zorn about difficulties associated with donations of books straight to public libraries. Specifically, he references comments by columnist Paul Varnell having to do with a recent act of arson in which a number of books having to do with gay and lesbian topics were burned at one of the branch libraries.

A lot of this sort of thing popped up when the libraries in New Orleans were flooded last year. Most books donated to public libraries end up in fundraising book sales, and that generally makes sense. When I was in high school, I was a clerk at the local public library, and the radio announcer for the city's major league baseball team lived a few blocks away. He would sometimes bring in some of his old, rare, well-taken-care-of baseball books. Those would get the attention of the head librarian, who would sometimes add them to a special collection of rare local material. But that was very much the exception -- mostly it was used paperbacks of V.C. Andrews and Danielle Steel, which, if circulated, a) would fall apart after a few readings, or b) had already fallen apart. There are specially bound books available for purchase by libraries that last much much longer, not to mention the fact that not every discarded book is needed at every library, not to mention the fact that there is usually detailed cataloging needed to integrate a book into a library's collection.

Well-meaning armchair librarians should no more assume that the local library needs their cast-offs than they should assume that they should donate their used 1998 station wagon to the local police department so they can paint it blue and stick some lights and a siren on top.


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