“Realizing that people object so strongly to throwing out books, I began to save a few of the most egregious examples to show people who got upset. The library owned a book entitled Careers for Women that included secretary, piano teacher and flight attendant, but strangely enough, not public school teacher, let alone financial analyst specializing in mergers and acquisitions. An anthropology book called The Races of Man explained, scientifically of course, why some races were more evolved than others. A book originally published in the 19th century and gamely reprinted in the 1920s, defended the early European settlers of North America, downplaying their casual brutality towards the Indians by recasting their actions in light of their Christian intentions. Most of the discards were old, but some weren’t: I’d put aside two books from the late 1990s elucidating the scourge of satanic ritual abuse and how students could protect themselves and their communities against it. These were the thin hardcovers you probably remember from your own middle-school library, the ones designed for student reports, with lots of pictures and quotations from experts. While well-researched and decently written, these books had the rather serious drawback of shedding light on a crime that has since been proven not to exist, although not before a number of innocent people were thrown into prison for committing it.
Student bibliophiles have lost interest and given up by this point, but teachers persist. “You shouldn’t throw them out, though! There are schools that don’t have any books in their libraries! Libraries whose budgets have been cut! Can’t you donate them to Paterson?” Poor Paterson. This argument, to me, smacks of a patronizing classism, though kindly meant. We’ve already established that these books could do more harm than good and do not merit inclusion in the collection of our very well-off school’s library. But give them to those poor Paterson kids, for whom the books would be that much worse for not having anything more recent on the shelf to compare them to.”
(I’m having a difficult time not quoting this whole article. Read the whole thing, really. Every word. h/t American Library Association Twitter)
Aha… I was that kid pulling library discards from the trash bin. (I threw in more than I took out, though.) And my “burn the books*” phase was later, so they are all still safe and sound in my room. I even read a few of them. One turned out to be in the top 5 of my favorite books.
To me, what matters about a book is the contents.
Exactly. And the contents of a book are often valuable in the context of their use. In a public or school library, outdated and unread books are useless. In the context of an academic library or archive, historiography starts coming into play. But if a school library can’t even get them to take something, that’s appraisal at work, imo.
*I’ve never actually burned a book, although some have tempted my resolve.