Friday, May 24, 2019


An exceptionally good episode of the podcast 99% Invisible: “Weeding Is Fundamental,” on library deaccessioning gone wrong. The story of the San Francisco Library reminded me of a recent Illinois misadventure in weeding that began when a library director ordered the removal of all non-fiction books more than ten years old. The library board ended up removing that director.

comments: 8

Slywy said...

“Deb Lissak told WILL Radio today that "communication errors among staff" led to the problems at UFL. She hopes to restore trust once this issue has been addressed and straightened out.”

When in doubt, blame staff. That whole story was bizarre.

Michael Leddy said...

Yep — the buck stops somewhere over there. Thank goodness for guerrilla librarians and whistleblowers.

Slywy said...

Also, just because nonfiction is 10 years old doesn't make it out of date. When I was writing about Mauritius kestrels, the only information available through libraries WAS older than that because that's how esoteric research works.

Why wasn't she fired? That seems to be a major misstep with huge cost ramifications. I wonder how much they were able to get back.

Michael Leddy said...

I don’t think there’s a clear answer about how many books were recovered. Some areas were hit harder than others. I remember reading — somewhere — that they removed their Audubon books.

I think in many cases it’s easier to get rid of someone by means other than firing and a subsequent lawsuit. Mutual agreement, &c.

Fresca said...

I cannot bear to listen to this--it would cause slicing pains--
but I am interested to know it--thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

I can do you an even better story: Fairfax County Library was discarding books if it had been unused for 2 or more years. Another reason they were discarding them was if they were inaccurate. Hmm, who determines that?

In 10 years, they had discarded 2.8 million books in 9 fiscal years until someone reported it. The estimated cost of the discarded books was over 25 million!

see follow-up article with link to article in Washington Post:


Slywy said...

“That's a discard rate of 859 library items every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for nine years!”

But did it spark joy?

Michael Leddy said...

That’s appalling. Truly what Nicholson Baker (in the podcast) calls a hate crime against the past.