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how to throw away books

So here's this article from California:

RESIDENTS UPSET ALAMEDA COUNTY LIBRARY THROWS OUT THOUSANDS OF BOOKS - The Alameda County Public Library director says about 172,000 books were discarded over the past two years. She says they were forced to make shelf space after spending about $3 million on new books.

Eesh. They're calling for her head over there! I have to admit, that's pretty crappy. There are pictures of perfectly good kids storybooks in there.

In 2012 the man and I built a little free library in our front yard. It's been fun! But it has taught me that books are not all sacred. I was starting to feel like that, and then talked to another lady in Wichita who had one who told me that she DEFINITELY had the same idea. She used to run a used bookstore, and had people come in with their old books to sell or trade, and said the experience made her "quickly get over" the idea that you can never throw away a book.

Some books are just in awful shape - pages falling out, covers missing. So you say "good job book, you lived a great life and now you may rest in peace." and peace is a recycle bin.

Other books are just useless. Learn HTML 2, pass your 2006 security guard test. Nobody wants these.

If they're borderline, I'll donate them to either a thrift store or our local Friends of the Library. They have a big book sale every year so I assume they're happy to get the 17th copy of Twilight Breaking Dawn someone left on our shelf.

The bottom line is there are so many books printed every year and in the end they're all just paper. So we can't feel bad about getting rid of some. As a little free library steward you kinda become that gatekeeper, so everyone else can say "I'd NEVER throw away a book!" - but you know reality has to be a little different.



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
I accept that some books aren't meant to last forever. What would chafe me more is the books being tossed into a landfill instead of being recycled. The trees....!!
Mar. 4th, 2015 02:04 am (UTC)
Or neither. I've not figured out what's bringing this about, but on my commute to work there's a long stretch of highway that every three or four days has at least a dozen books in the median and along the sides of the roads.
Mar. 4th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
Very weird. o.O
Mar. 3rd, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's sort of the dirty little secret of libraries that nobody likes to think about. Because rationally, how the heck do you make room for new books if you don't get rid of some old ones?

Years ago I was living in San Francisco at the time the Main Library was transferred to the much-vaunted "New Main" amid a general shuffling of public buildings. I became suspicious when all the publicity around the new building talked about its avant-garde design and its high-tech capabilities - but no mention was made of how many books it would hold. It turned out my suspicions were well-founded: the Library actually had to discard a significant number of books because of the smaller shelf space in the new building.

Now that, to my mind, is a waste, and a tragedy that could have been avoided.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 06:54 pm (UTC)
Books are not at all sacred. I get rid of books all the time. If I've read them, I've gotten most of the value I will get from them. If I haven't, and I'm not planning to, it's just another thing cluttering up my existence. I'm a rereader, so some books I keep and reread, but I don't envy those with thousands and thousands of books.

I think the thing that really cemented the idea for me though, was reading a story from a library assistant who on a fairly regular basis had to come in in the middle of the night in order to chuck tons of excess bibles into the recycle bin. They had thousands and more got donated all the time, but they couldn't be seen getting rid of them, so this poor kid had to come in and chuck them under cover of night. Ridiculous. Even libraries that have the means to hold regular book sales and giveaways still have to get rid of tons of books. I pretty much trust the people who are educated in collections management to manage library collections.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 07:30 pm (UTC)
Mar. 3rd, 2015 09:44 pm (UTC)
From Spacefem's original post:

In 2012 the man and I built a little free library in our front yard.

I think she knows about it.
Mar. 4th, 2015 06:12 pm (UTC)
yeah I think he must have missed that paragraph :) that's the whole POINT of this post - our library becomes like a slidelock puzzle of people leaving books in it all the time, so I get to see and judge what gets thrown out and have quickly gotten over my resistance to throwing any book away.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 07:42 pm (UTC)
I agree with you in that I've thrown out 3 or 4 books in my life (well maybe 7 or 8) but you'd think a library throwing out 172,000 really could do better.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 07:43 pm (UTC)
At the college where I work they get donations regularly of books they don't want. They put them outside on a "Free books" shelf. Almost all of them then vanish. Someone wants almost anything...
Mar. 4th, 2015 02:05 am (UTC)
Our libraries have a policy that you put books you don't want right in with all the other books and their sorting robot dumps them all in a huge bin, and every six months they have a friends of the library sale and you can buy other people's castoffs for $1 each. It's a reasonably nice setup.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 07:56 pm (UTC)
I bring the books that the used book stores won't take to The Book Thing in Baltimore, which gives away thousands of books a weekend. I can't imagine who actually wants some things, like 15 year old AAA travel guides, but they take them all.

As for books that are in crappy condition, some of them can be used for artwork - altered books, or torn up for collages or the like. I have used pages from decayed dictionaries in between sheets of mica for covers on books I've made, for example. But you need to hang out with the right sort of artists to find people to take stuff like that.
Mar. 3rd, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)

My friend did that.
Mar. 4th, 2015 03:33 am (UTC)
I was going to make the same suggestion for altered books :-) I found a local map book from 2009 and it was kind of neat in a time capsule way.
Mar. 4th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
I once saw an episode of horders where they were trying to talk a lady into throwing away a bunch of cheap plastic hangars from store clothes, showing how brittle and unusable they were, they could just be broken apart with no effort. and she just said, "maybe someone could make some kind of craft with it, like a mosiac?"

ever since then I have a resistance to keep anything around in the name of "could be art".
Mar. 3rd, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
The optics would have been so much worse had they burned the unwanted books ;-)
Mar. 3rd, 2015 09:36 pm (UTC)
I feel the same. This is why readitswapit is ridiculously awesome. Also my local dance school has a 'swap' suitcase. And we also have a shelf in my faculty lounge where we can swap books. It's been the same at every school I've worked in.
Mar. 4th, 2015 01:52 am (UTC)
I think it makes sense that they will eventually be done away with--I'd hate to think about them in the trash instead of recycled, though. And if that library threw away that many decent books, that would be a bummer.
Mar. 4th, 2015 03:36 am (UTC)
It would take a monumental effort to recycle books unfortunately :-(. Our blue cart system is fine with paperbacks, but hardcovers and coil bound books must be separated from the paper part before recycling.
Mar. 4th, 2015 05:30 am (UTC)
One of the more mind-boggling things I found in my apartment complex's dumpster was dozens of good condition books (or at least, they were good condition until someone threw them in a dumpster and they got bent up)

I redeemed several that looked interesting, buried Da Vinci Code a little further under the trash, and shook my head...

my dad took me to a used bookstore and I read a LOT of stuff there, that throwing away books in good condition is just amazing. There's goodwill, used book stores, freecycle, bookmooch/paperback swap, or free libraries like your project. . .

(same dumpster had an orchid, still in bloom, not too long later)
Mar. 4th, 2015 05:32 am (UTC)
I also studied from the old question set when I was getting my amateur radio license. I had a set of the current questions, then supplemented it with a guide book from several years back, because honestly, the physics of radio transmissions hasn't changed much in the last 30 years, even if no one hooks into the phone networks, and all the cellular range has moved to digital-only.
Mar. 4th, 2015 11:53 am (UTC)
I've thrown away a few in my time, but 172,000 in two years seems rather excessive. Is it a huge library? I know the one in our town has an annual sale, where donated books, and the ones the library doesn't need or want are sold. Those not sold are donated to charity. I know it's a pain (I've recently winnowed down my library from 2,300 to 1,800,) but I think it's worth the effort.
Mar. 5th, 2015 05:30 am (UTC)
there really does come a time when physical books are just clutter. i wonder if this generation is the last one that will have that sort of visceral aversion to throwing one out; with ebooks having taken off rapidly and print-on-demand in the offing, i'm betting a given instance of a physical book will soon be seen as readily disposable even by those of us who are emotionally attached to the idea of books in general.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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