Keep the Old Books!

As I always do when it’s time for a new unit in science or history, I went to the library to swap out the books we’ve finished for books about new topics.  This week, for history that meant books about Clovis and Charles the Hammer and Charlemagne.  Both of the libraries within walking distance are under renovation right now and the temporary library set up in a store front is a little pitiful, so I haven’t been going there.  Besides, we often need more books than our branch library can provide.  I’ve taken to going to two different libraries: the central library and a large branch library northwest of us.

Our central library has a pretty decent children’s book section in a big room with lots of windows.  It’s not the best facility ever, but it could be much worse.  The branch I’ve been going to is smaller, but it has something that none of the other libraries in our system have: old books.  Everything in our entire library system for children seems to have been published after about 1990.  Even older books are much more likely to be reissues from the 80’s and 90’s than original or older editions.  On the one hand, this is nice.  The collection, while not perfect, is relatively current.

On the other hand, look at this beautiful specimen of book I discovered while looking for stuff about Charlemagne.  It’s A Picture History of France by Clarke Hutton, in an edition from 1958.

Look at those illustrations!  The text is also very appropriate to elementary school.  It’s not a long, wordy book.  However, it’s not the brisk overview of an encyclopedia either.  There’s some meat there.

I went and told the librarian on duty how thrilled I was that their branch had old books.  She looked pleased that someone had noticed and was appreciative.  From what she said, I had the feeling that the library may have to defend its collection sometimes.  I’m not sure how often a book like this circulates.  I know that the books that get the most use are the ones the library wants to invest their money in.  However, if the kids want a Judy Moody book or a Magic Treehouse book and the library doesn’t have it, I can just pop over to the bookstore and buy it.  If we need an older book or a reference book for school, sometimes it’s impossible to buy it.  Books like this one are a resource for the library.  Yes, they take up shelf space, but it makes me so sad that libraries often toss these books out when they renovate or get new books in.

3 thoughts on “Keep the Old Books!

  1. Checking it out is definitely helping to ensure they’ll keep it — most libraries, even those with a space crunch, won’t get rid of books that circulate often. It varies, obviously, but a general rule of thumb they taught us in library school was that if a book is in decent physical condition, doesn’t have incorrect old information, and has been checked out at least once in the last two years, it’s a keeper.

  2. This is what I love about living just a few blocks away from the main branch of the Baltimore library. They have four floors of underground storage, and they rarely get rid of books. When I check out a novel published in the 1950s, I get a first edition. And they’ve got every children’s book imaginable. They limit open shelving to books published after 2004, but the old stuff is all still in the back, and they’re very good-natured about going prospecting when I bring them my book list.

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