Librarian discards “old” nonfiction – oh, my!

fire fire

While there are mixed reports, it sounds like the Director of the Urbana Free Library made a unilateral decision to “weed” out adult nonfiction based solely on age – any title older than ten years was removed. I’m stunned. Having just read and appreciated Lincoln, A Photobiography written by Russell Freedman and published in 1987, I feel at a loss for words other than “How could you?!” Thousands of books were weeded out and sent to an online retailer – in less than a week. Award winning books on architecture. Volumes documenting the art of particular countries. International-language dictionaries. While these are books found in the adult section, they are valuable to our students as well. Anybody ever handed a book of art to a kindergarten student? Challenged a kid to learn a little Spanish? Used architecture to explore math with students? You’d be amazed at how enthralled students become with these books – instantly.

There is no doubt that libraries need to weed collections, but the criteria is usually related to physical condition, amount of use, value, whether there is a duplicate, whether the text is available through inter-library loan – as well as age.

I admit I have been mostly a fan of newer nonfiction for children and youth. My recent work, though, has focused on evaluating the nonfiction titles listed in the Common Core Appendix B – many of which are more than ten years old. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality. Imagine having Fire, Fire (1984) by Gail Gibbons and Truck (1980) by Donald Crews thrown out because of age? While these books are still in print, my library has the copies that are this old on their shelves. I guess my point in blogging is that many teachers do not have access to enough informational texts – especially with the increase in access required by the Common Core. This year, at the school where I worked, the teachers visited the public library on weekends for books to use in their classrooms – because their school doesn’t have a library. School libraries that do exist are underfunded.

I guess my point is -there are valuable older nonfiction texts out there that we need in our work with students. My goal is to remember, explore, use more of this nonfiction and then also to let the librarians I work with know how much I appreciate and value access to these titles.


3 thoughts on “Librarian discards “old” nonfiction – oh, my!

  1. Janet S. Gaffney

    I realize from reading this blog entry that I have no clue about how librarians make decisions about maintaining ever-expanding collections. I wonder if some librarians could help us understand their dilemma and the criteria they use. I am sure that such “weeding” would be required of school and public libraries. Now I am curious to understand how they approach this challenge.


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