Friday, June 25, 2010

No rest homes for elderly library books

Another year done. Our school has a fabulous ritual: as the buses pull away for their final trip of the year, everyone heads outside to wave, the kids wave out the bus windows, and the drivers honk like crazy (kind of like the sound of the vuvuzelas at World Cup Soccer we've heard so much about!).

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about books. After the waving and honking, I made a shortcut back to my classroom by cutting through the school library. I noted piles of books on top of the stacks, and, of course, I wondered if any were possible candidates for my "altered books" project. Some looked old, but others not so much. I noted in particular a gorgeous copy of The Ocean World by Jacques Cousteau that I wanted to keep myself.

Turns out, these books were all being DISCARDED. Some were published before a certain date and therefore possibly contained lead. I understand that these need to be trashed. Other books contained outdated or obsolete information. But many were just books that had been republished with an updated look or format, or books that had too many duplicates in the library, or books that were rarely signed out and therefore were being removed for space reasons. There was nothing WRONG with these books.

So I asked - if these are being removed from the library, can't they be either :
*given away to students who have little resources,
*donated to a rummage sale or used book sale, or
*sent to a part of the world that can use any books
(Haiti, parts of Africa, Afghanistan, etc)
But I was told no. The auditor was watching them and these books had to be DESTROYED. NO CHOICE. (New York State Laws and Regulations and all that jazz.) As an avid reader, it broke my heart.

My question to you: what happens to old books in your school/library/state? Do they get handed down to folks in need? Or trashed as miserably as these? Why is there no sweet place to send old books out to pasture? I'm so sad...
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An aside: A really sweet quirky old book about a very unusual library : The Abortion by Richard Brautigan. And a much newer but also sweet, charming book I just finished last week: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What's on your summer reading list?


  1. We do THE WAVE too! It is so fun. All the teacher's line up on the sidewalk. This year the principal and custodians joined in. It is the best isn't it?

    I took books from the library that were getting thrown away and gave them to my friend at the high school who was doing an altered book project. That is ridiculous that they spend time and money on an auditor! Sorry if I'm out of line, just my opinion. In my district the waste is also crazy. We are cutting tons of teachers but still getting presents for teacher appreciation day, full color district newspapers and so much more. Priorities!

  2. You are not out of line, Erica. I agree.

    As for waste, we are so hypocritical. All year long, we make a big deal with the kids about recycling. We recycle paper, bottles, etc, we do catalog cancellation, etc. But now the kids are gone and we were cleaning up and the custodians told us "just throw it all away" to the mountains of discarded paper. They said there would be no recycling now that the kids are out of school. WHY NOT?

  3. We bring it to the recycling bin outside ourselves. We discovered that everything was getting thrown in the trash no matter which bin we put it in so during the school year the gym teacher and I created a "green team". The group does the recycling for the school among other things.

    It's a pretty simple process. The students bring it down to a recycling center and dump it into a bin with wheels then in the morning kids wheel it out to the recycling bin. Gotta do what we gotta do!

  4. Hmm my school is still so new that we don't have any "old" books. But, my local public libraries have monthly "old" book sales. The books sell for pennies. AND, the main public libraries all have "for sale" book closests that you can visit any day of the week (super cool, no?). Not all are picture books, but they would work great for an altered book project. Maybe your local public libraries do something similar?

    And, thanks for you sweet comment over on my blog. Lol. I LOVE Maine in the summer time. I'm going to be super envious of that great, swift, summer air that you'll be enjoying!

  5. Yes, our local library has a book sale 3 or 4 times a year, and when the sale is ending you can 'fill a bag' for a small fee. I always go.
    For altered books next fall, I already have a bunch of defunct grammar texts that came my way, perfect size and all. (You don't need picture books for altered books.)
    My sadness comes from the fact that they legally must throw away books that would still be lovingly read in the right hands.

  6. nooooooooooo thats a crazy rule. What about making them into altered art books or journals or just re using them that is awful who made this stupid rule

  7. At my school our librarian had a give away table. She only puts a few out at a time and keeps the rest in the back room. She rotates the ones out on the table and most of them go home with students that way. I have sent several 6th grade students to the table to choose a book for an altered book project. They were very productive artists and often finished assignments early. They really liked doing extra art in the found book.

  8. Yes, Kathy, we used to have a give-away table too. I guess it was the combo of the auditor looking over the librarian's shoulder, and new regulations that prevented her from doing that this year.
    I do have books for my altered book project though, because a couple of teachers who were getting new texts to replace obsolete ones sent them directly to me, so nobody knew to complain. Lucky me!