GAAAAH! A Bibliophile's NIGHTMARE!
As I sit surrounded by my
You can't find "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings" at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or "The Education of Henry Adams" at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest"? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.
It's not that the books are checked out. They're just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.
Linda Schlekau, manager of Woodrow Wilson library in Fairfax County, says she discards about 700 books a month.
Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.
Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region's largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.
Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics.
"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost."
Books on the Chopping Block in Fairfax
The following books have been weeded from the shelves of various branches of the Fairfax County Public Library system or haven't been checked out in 24 months and could be discarded. In parentheses are the branches where the books are endangered. The same title might be available at another branch.
The Works of Aristotle, Aristotle (Centreville)
Sexual Politics, Kate Millett (Centreville)
The Great Philosophers, Karl Jaspers (Centreville)
Carry Me Home, Diane McWhorter (Centreville)
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (George Mason Regional)
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (George Mason Regional)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (George Mason Regional)
Desolation Angels, Jack Kerouac (George Mason Regional)
Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (George Mason Regional)
Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust (George Mason Regional)
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, Maya Angelou (Chantilly Regional)
The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams (Chantilly Regional)
Writings, Gertrude Stein (Chantilly Regional)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Chantilly Regional)
Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (Chantilly Regional)
Great Issues in American History, Richard Hofstadter (Chantilly Regional)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (Chantilly Regional)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Pohick Regional)
Babylon Revisited: And other stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Reston Regional)
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Reston Regional)
The Aeneid, Virgil (Sherwood Regional)
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot (Fairfax City Regional)
What does it say about me that I actually own several of these books?
Now, look, I'll admit that George Eliot is not everyone's cup o'tea, William Faulkner never been one of my favorites-- I'm much more a Eudora Welty kind of gal (my sister is just like Stella-Rondo), and as a history teacher, I personally am quite fond of the Hofstadter works and even have them on my shelves, but.... Aristotle? Hemingway?? Bronte??? Harper LEE???????
Three questions pop to mind:
1. Are these librarians nuts-- who has "40 feet of shelfspace devoted to tulips?", and
2. Who are the people who patronize these libraries?
3. "Pohick regional??" It's too good to be true! Hahahahaha!
Just because a book is not checked out does not mean it hasn't been used by a patron in the library. Further, this practice becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as people who would want these kinds of books realize that they are not on the shelves, they will stop coming to the library altogether.
Eventually, no thinking person will go to the library. At least in Fairfax.