Awful Library Books

Recently, someone on the YALSA-bk listserv shared a link to Awful Library Books, a blog that shares covers and tidbits about books that have been weeded (recently!) from library collections.   It then made the rounds of our state listserv.  The examples on the Awful Library Books blog are funny, yet sad at the same time.  They brought back memories of my first weeding adventure as a brand new librarian at Wagener-Salley.

I couldn’t get over the books that I found.  It made me wonder if anyone had ever weeded the collection before.  There were books as old as the early 1900s – some that say copyright 1896, but not sure if that’s true – could be, but I’m skeptical.   I kept a few of the books I weeded in an archive section, simply because they were either ones I wanted to take a longer look at or too priceless:  beautiful field guides from the 1930s; a Grays Anatomy from the 1950s, Essays by Emerson (the 1896 book), and this little gem…

The Happy Bookers: A Playful History of Librarians and Their World from the Stone Age to the Distant Future

by Richard Armour w/ Appropriate Illustrations by Campbell Grant
Copyright 1976
McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York

This was too funny!  I enjoyed paging through it and looking at the illustrations.  I’ll admit that I haven’t read it yet.  It’s been sitting in my back storage closet for when I have that all elusive “free time” I keep hearing about.

Check out these page shots I scanned of the present and future librarians and technology (early ebook reader??)

A.  “She’s come a long way.”  – I guess that’s a past “librarian” and a “today” librarian.  Actually, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of me “today” – just add a few pounds <grin>.

B.  “Disastrous breakdowns.” – I remember those filmstrip projectors from my childhood, but I’ve never had to work one before – I’m so glad for DVDs and streaming video we have now!

C. “Dial a book” – An early look at ebooks?  Not too far off, just not quite right.

Good News/Bad News

I was going through my drafts and realized I hadn’t posted this one yet.  I wrote it back on Sept. 21st.

At the end of the last school year, our district media specialists met with our Superintendent to share the results of an analysis on the state of our library collections (both individual school data as well as the district as a whole).  As you can imagine, the data wasn’t pretty.  Basically, we all have to greatly weed our collections and some major money has to be allocated to allow us to purchase new materials.  Not a shocker.

The Superintended WAS shocked and promptly shared this information with the school board and area superintendents, which in turn trickled down to our principals.  Cool! My new principal came to me at the beginning of the school year and wanted a plan of action from me on how I was going to weed and discard the books indicated by the analysis.  He also wants a library needs assessment.  Fabulous!  I hadn’t yet begun to hit him up for money for the library yet!  Of course, there is no additional funding at this time, but hey, we can’t fix this problem overnight and the fact that he came to me at all is wonderful.

Anyhoo, my library analysis says that my overall collection age is 1991 and that I need to weed 1,796 books and add ZERO to raise my overall collection age to 1994 and reach our states “Emerging” status.  To reach “Proficient” status, I need to weed 2,172 books and add 918 more books to reach a collection age of 1997.  Of course, what the analysis doesn’t say is that when I took over the library six years ago, the average collection age was 1979.   I’ve already removed a couple (or three) thousand outdated books.

But the fact that the powers that be don’t realize what I’ve already accomplished isn’t why I’m discouraged.  What bothers me is the “figures” that the analysis show.  By saying I “only” need to add 918 books, it limits what I’ll potentially receive in additional funding.  Plus, those numbers are based upon an average book cost of around $25, which anyone in library purchasing will tell you is not nearly enough when you’re buying non-fiction and reference titles.  In addition, what bugs me the most is that these numbers are based solely upon the number of students at my school….the school should have x number of books per student.  Well, la, te, da.  It doesn’t matter how many students my school has enrolled.  I still need the SAME books as every other high school in the district.  Even though I only have 355 students, I still need the same sets of reference books to cover all of those research papers and projects that the big high schools do!

Whining aside, here is what I plan to do: I plan to bring this topic up at our high school media specialist meeting to see if we, as a group, can raise the issue with our parent organization and in turn with the Superintendent.  You see, it’s not just my high school that this short sightedness will effect.  The other high school in my area, also a rural school, only has 250 students, so she’ll probably be receiving even less money than us.  I’m hoping that we can come up with a core collection list that all high schools should have then fight for the funding that will allow each school to receive that collection.

I know that there is no quick fix for me or the rest of our school libraries.  The state of our libraries is abysmal and a ton of money will need to be allocated.  With the budgeting shortfall in the district and across the state, nothing is likely to happen in the near future.  But just the fact that the powers that be are aware of the problem and are making steps in the right direction gives me hope.

Update 10/16/08: I found out this week that the library budgets have been halved!  And I haven’t even begun to spend mine so I’ll loose almost all of my funding.  Usually, I’ve spent most of it by the end of August, just for this reason.  Since the June meeting and the way my principal came to me, I let my guard down and wasn’t in as big a hurry to spend the money.  Guess that will teach me! *sigh*