Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Monday, January 01, 2007

Old classics eliminated at Virginia library

Not a censorship issue per se, but with similar effect: the Fairfax county library system in Virginia is eliminating thousands of classics and other revered literature to make way for more popular modern novels, computers, audiovisual areas, and individual study carrels in the libraries. Lisa Rein of the Washington Post (Jan. 3) reports:

"You can't find "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" at the Fairfax City 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.

"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 bookshelves -- 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..."

Thanks to Fred Stoss for posting a link to this article on the SRRT Action Council email forum of the American Library Association.

3 Comments:

Blogger fahrenheit451moderator said...

I am sure that even though some of the classics may be removed from this particular library, they are available to the patrons through Interlibrary Loan. As we have a huge space problem in the small library where I work, I understand the need to weed out what is not being used. However, we have e-books that are the classics and any book in libraries across Canada are available to our patrons.

Ironically, when I started Fahrenheit 451 Banned Book Club, we ended up checking the shelves for many of the classics which had disappeared over the years and had to order them. Now they go out most frequently during the months when we run the book club.

The classics will always be with us.

5:33 PM  
Blogger fahrenheit451moderator said...

In a follow up to my last comment, let me say that my co-workers were concerned enough about the weeding out of classics (not in our particular library) that we have put up a display of them. To our delight, they are being rediscovered and we find ourselves having to restock the display daily.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

The article you cite here is very misleading. Although books were withdrawn from a particular branch, there were still multiple copies available in the system. The examples given (in the Library Journal article January 8, 2007) are Dr. Faustus - 12 copies remaining; Abraham Lincoln: his speeches and writings - 10 copies; The education of Henry Adams - 15 copies; Final Harvest by Emily Dickinson - 19 copies. These are readily available to anyone who wants them. Library space is finite...you cannot have all things in the smaller branches, they would become dead collections and cease to be used because there would be no room for new material and people demand the new material. I don't know what the system is like in Fairfax, Va., but here the book can be routed to any branch in our system (assuming it is on the shelf at the branch it is at) and be to the branch where it is requested within 3 days. We have 26 branches...we cannot possibly have "the classics" in all of the branches, nor do they have the space for them.

8:58 AM  

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