a blog of awful library books

A blog borne of frustration, but amusing to read: Awful Library Books.

Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner are public librarians in Michigan and cannot understand why librarians won’t weed the junk from circulating collections. The authors sincerely hope that public librarians will embrace maintaining a quality collection and share similar examples of awful library books.

[thanks eli!]

17 thoughts on “a blog of awful library books

  1. why librarians won’t weed the junk from circulating collections

    Perhaps because of the endless parade of TV news stories framed as “Local librarians are throwing your tax dollars straight into the trash! Shocking details tonight after Idol.” if they do any weeding.

  2. I can’t speak to the reason why…but I can speak to the fact that unwillingness to weed is a problem in more libraries than not.  I have to fight to get ugly, out-of-date books out of circulation.  Books about “modern France” copyright 1960; children’s books about how to run an Apple 2e; government reports on crime for years in the 70s and 80s.  Yes, these books do occasionally get checked out.  However, I sure hope nobody is using the information for anything other than reminiscing about the good old days!Our children’s librarian seems to be very fearful that there will not be enough books for the shelves.  Just the opposite is true.  The shelves are overflowing with out-of-date information and fiction books that haven’t been checked out for six years or more.  Just get rid of it!

  3. I could start a whole other blog for an academic library just with the stuff we have here in our outdated (I am talking decades here) collection. And it is not for lack of weeding. We did do a major weed, and we still have stuff from anywhere between the 1800s to the 1950s. I wish I was making this up. The problem? An administration that pretty much questions the need for books. Same admin. who fund the library adequately (we do not have an actual book budget. We buy monographs if and when any money is left over at end of year). I could go on, but in the end, I just want to say it is not about not being willing to weed.

    And I know this is a professional blog, but I do have to remain pseudonymous. I don’t think MPOW would appreciate me mentioning their “unmentionables.”

  4. Some possible reasons, collected after a huge scandalous discussion in Hungary on the powdered circulating collection which is measured 50% in a recent survey:
    – fear from facing the real use / quality of collection (may decrease the lobby-power)
    – irrational amount of buerocracy of weeding
    – books are good “hard” stuff aiming to demonstrate self-importance, space requirements etc. (to visualise the same with information and social services is more difficult)
    – the reference work of librarians often still bases on paper sources
    – out of date ideas on libra(=book)-ries among users, maintenance and librarians
    – ???.

  5. One of my favorite titles that I helped weed from several libraries over my years at DOL: “The Kaiser as I Know Him”

  6. And don’t forget the Friends of the Library who spot a weeded book on its way to the Book Sale and wonder why the Library is getting rid of such great literature…

  7. Best collection development advice I ever got: if you’re going to weed a collection, do it after midnight on a moonless night.

    True story: I used to work at a university music library. One day I had a cart full of unwanted books and LP records (weeded stuff and rejected gifts) and stupidly decided to throw it out in broad daylight. As I pushed the cart the toward the dumpster, a small crowd gathered around and all hell broke loose. “OMG OMG OMG!!! YOU’RE THROWING AWAY PRICELESS LIBRARY MATERIALS!!! OH, THE HUMANITY!!!!” On an impulse, I stepped away from the cart and invited the crowd to take whatever they wanted. This violated library and university policy, and probably state law too. The group eagerly circled the cart and began greedily rifling through its contents. After a few minutes, they gradually stopped and walked away. Nobody took a single item. I was then able to toss them into the dumpster undisturbed.

  8. @nemo: I don’t know how many discarded books I’ve had to hide from our volunteers because I know I’ll never hear the end of it if they see what treasures I’m weeding.
    Plus the patrons who dig through the dumpster at night only to bring ancient, stained computer books to the front desk in an attempt to shame us for wasting the taxpayer’s money.

  9. Our Friends of the Library dump books if they have not sold in 2 book sales. At one point somebody screeched up and said “where are you taking those books?” Dave said, “to your car–open up the trunk!” You never saw somebody peel away so fast…

  10. This has always been an issue which will keep coming up time & time again.

    What we all need to keep in mind is:

    – That there is a major difference between a lending or refernce library, and an archive.

    – Libraries are not archives.

    – That any outdated medical or legal book will provide misinformation.

    – Technologies change.

    – New editions get published.

    – Our thinking changes upon various issues or works of art over years.

    – That we constantly discover more and more upon the world about us.

    – That a library should be a place which reflects all of the above.

    – That libraries are places in which people find books to educate themselves.


    – Thus library stock should be the best possible in order to achive this end.

    If only more libraries were to explain any or all of the above, then we wouldn’t get such a bad press every time that a book is withdrawn from stock.

  11. I think there are librarians who are at fault as well – four days before I left on maternity leave I had a coworker decide to send me her entire video collection. It wasn’t circulating at her branch, while videos go okay at my branch, so she’d send me the entire collection. Regardless of space or quality of material. Because someone, somewhere, might want it.

    Mind you, this is a particular librarian team (youth services) who just don’t weed. The only time anyone did, they threw out half of their collection under the impression that the more they chucked the more money they’d get to replace. So now they don’t weed. They buy at least five copies of any book, but they don’t weed. There are issues in junior non-fiction publishing that can make it difficult to replace some material, but if it’s out of date, covered in unmentionable/undefined ick or just bad information it needs to go and we need to find another way to fill the gap.

  12. I know some of these observations are valid but I have to say an entire blog devoted only to the negative? It seems more and more blogs are written only for other bloggers, and the underlying spirit is “caught you.” Actually, that may just be society in general.

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