Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yep! Even Library Stupidity Working Against Readers and Writers

(Reprinted from Sharing with Writers, an e-newsletter edited by Carolyn Howard-Johnson)

After my last rant on publishers running amuck I find this information on how libraries might be hurting readers and writers alike!

Time reports that the director of the library system in Fairfax County, VA., is presiding over the destruction of books including classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Kill a Mockingbird. Time magazine (January 15, 2007) reports that they will destroy any book not checked in the last two years.

The director is quoted as saying "We're being very ruthless. A book is not forever."

I beg to differ. Putting aside exigencies like mold and fire, a book is forever. The piece in my last newsletter about the palimpsest from which our scientists are struggling to retrieve the remains of some of Archimedes's work puts the lie to that remark about as well as anything.

But more than that, what has happened to our idea of libraries? Aren't they repositories of a culture. A place where people can go to find To Kill a Mockingbird when the spirit moves them or when someone (Praise be!) chooses to talk to our young people again about tolerance. Or when . . . .well, you get the idea.

What about the concept of free press and free speech? What about the idea that ideas of all kinds should be available to our populace not just the popular ones. Who gets to judge what is popular anyway. We measure that with the number of times a book has been checked our or its political slant? I don't think we can trust that popular necessarily equates with quality or needed.

I'm really, really ticked off at this one. Of course all libraries can't keep every book that ever decked its stacks. Economics are a consideration. But I believe that we hire good librarians (and good directors) to make decent choices for the good of the community and it seems to me that this particular director got it wrong somewhere along the way.

I also believe that we get the kind of government (and libraries) we deserve. It looks as if we are all doomed.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson and a blog focused on book fairs at and another blog that is just about writing and reading at

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