Monday morning, a dumpster full of books sat outside of Stockwell-Mudd Library, causing concern among members of the student population.
Despite the questionable image and underlying assumption that the college was throwing books away, in reality, it’s a natural process and normal practice for any library.
“Libraries weed books all the time,” said Mike Van Houten, co-director of the Albion College Library. “It used to be if we could, we recycled books. That dumpster is full because we have been saving in our attic. We have approximately a hundred boxes of books that we have been saving at least a couple of years that were removed from the collection because either we got better more current information, or, for whatever reason, it was no longer needed in our collection.”
Despite being in the dumpster, the books aren’t necessarily being thrown away. When the library weeds a book out of its collection, there are a couple of places the books can go.
“We do a couple of things. If the books have possible value for possible resale we work with Better World Books, and I think we just shipped over a hundred boxes to them two weeks ago,” said Van Houten. “They resell, and we get a percentage of the money they get, and a percentage also goes to a literacy program. I think some of it goes to international programs as well.”
Unfortunately, Better World Books isn’t able to take every book that the library removes from its collection.
“They will only take certain types of books. So, the ones that we’ve been storing for a couple of years were really filling up our attic, and they could no longer be recycled,” said Van Houten. “That’s no longer an option for those and Better World Books had no use for them. So, out they go, unfortunately.”
In addition to removing books, the library also receives books. The library’s collection is constantly being updated, and many donations are made to the collection every year.
“We get offers all the time from people who would like to donate to us,” said Van Houten. “It’s year-round, every year because people hate the idea of throwing away a book.”
In order to have room for all the donations and to keep the library’s collection up to date, weeding out books is a natural process that happens in every library.
“The optics of it look negative, but it’s a normal thing. I’ve seen things like this happen at other libraries where I’ve worked where people get alarmed by dumpsters full of books, but it is something that libraries are constantly doing and sometimes you have to do it a little bit more,” said Jill Masen, associate director of the library and head of library systems and technology. “Sometimes, you have it going on constantly, so it’s not visible, but in other times, like in this scenario where we have had things stored in the attic and we sort of need to clear out some storage spaces, then it looks a little bit along the lines of alarming.”