Thursday, October 18, 2007

Discarded? Rescued.

I pick up old library books whenever I can find them for a quarter or less. I love the sturdy bindings, sweet illustrations, and old-fashioned language.

I understand that libraries have to stamp them as discards, but why do they have to deface the book inside and out? Of all people, wouldn't librarians hope that someone would rescue the discarded books for their own children?

Just wait till you see the DISCARD damage on the Lois Lenski I bought last week.

Above, a gorgeous book called The Poppy Seed Cakes by Margery Clark, illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, 1924. You can view more of its colorful illustrations here.


Simple Faith and Life said...

Which Lois Lenski? I used to love her books when my kids were little.

Anonymous said...

I love picking up old library books!

Over the summer our elementary school library was GIVING AWAY old books. And other than the school stamp on the cover, they didn't stamp anything else on the book. It was wonderful!

Marsha said...

I've been accused of stealing books even when the "discard" or "removed from collection" stamps are obvious. I think people are funny (not ha-ha!) about library books and ownership - perhaps the library guardians of the books you bought felt that they should be marked forever in some way, even if they were leaving their orbit.

Molly said...

I can actually tell your from experience that what the issue is. Librarians don't want to "deface" books (and I actually don't see it as "defacing"), but we also need to keep the collection as useful and use-able as possible.

Keep in mind that library are really more than book warehouses, each collection serves a very specific purpose. If books that aren't getting used or have become obsolete clutter up the shelves it becomes that much more difficult for patrons to find the information and materials they are looking for.

So we weed. We cull out the materials that are no longer useful, that haven't circulated in the last 10 years, that contain out-of-date information, etc. and throw them out. In many places you HAVE to throw them out, not resell them because of using tax dollars to purchase them in the first place, and other legal mumbo-jumbo.

We stamp DICSARD all over them because people have a tendency to pick books out of the trash and then bring them back into the library to be re-added to the collection. Stamping it discard assures that once it is out of the collection there is a very good reason why we cannot put it back in. People get very sentimental about library books, which I can understand, but library have limited physical space and sadly, cannot keep everything. People get really emotional and quite frankly make a scene about putting their "favorite" book back on the shelf. and librarians who have better things to do than diffuse overly emotional patrons can just say, "I'm sorry but we can't put it back on the shelf in that condition."

Now, when we discard things in my library, we rarely stamp them covers with discard, but we do stamp them inside in several places.

Hope that explains the librarian's point of view.

Librarian and book lover,


Hopewell said...

We LOVE this book! "Poppyseed Cakes" reminds us all of Ukraine. I'm so glad you "rescued" it.
As a librarian I hate the "circulate or die" weeding policies. If a book doesn't circulate [get checked out] X number of times in X amount of time it goes. Obviously, space being so expensive, somethings have to go. I love to check out sad old books to frustrate this policy!

coffeemamma said...

I've been able to get stamps off of covers by gently wiping with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Meredith said...

I understand the culling process, I just wish that so many of these beautiful old books aren't stamped every three pages plus the cover!

My favorite book is stamped even on the TEXT itself, every three pages. I kept it for the illustrations.

It's one thing to remove a book and mark it accordingly, but it doesn't have to be done in an ugly manner and/or one that renders the book obsolete.

Molly said...


Stamping every 3 pages seems a bit like overkill to me. We only ever stamp inside front and back cover and on one of the outside edges.

Next time you're at the library, ask.

Maybe one of the volunteers just really likes using the stamp and ink pad.


Renee said...

You could cut and frame these illustrations for a nursery or girl's bedroom and have a gorgeous wall decoration. Why DO they stamp the covers??

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Cute book. I'm glad you posted this because it reminded me that one of our local libraries is having a sale this weekend. I'd forgotten until I saw your post!

julie said...

i am thinking that if WE were to do that kind of stamp "damage" to a library small children getting a hold of can be sure the librarians and staff would indeed consider it defacing.....just a thought!

Charity Grace said...

Love, love old books. The one in the picture looks like a treasure.

Stephanie said...

I love old library books too and have also wondered why they feel the need to do this to them. Is it so they cannot be resold or something?

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I wonder if my library has a discard pile! Where would I find it?

I have seen a collection of used books for sale, but never just getting rid of!

Thank you for this article, and... what a beautiful book!

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration at having that dread "DISCARD" stamp used all over a former library book. But I also share your joy in being able to pick them up for pennies on the dollar, at a library discard sale, too. It's a trade off, of sorts, and I still feel the balance is tipped in my favor.

Meredith said...

Some libraries give away outdated books, but most sell them along with other donated books at Friends of Library book sales each season.

The books I've picked up have been here and there from yard sales. Who knows where the original discarded books came from?

Either way, I'm happy to snatch them up and save them from the dumpster!

Joy said...

I love going to library book sales as well. You neer know what gem you will find. The oldest book that I have from one sale is Little Women (1890). I love the the color plates in it. Your book that you found is so pretty.
God bless

Luke and Valerie said...

The Rooster Crows (illus. by M&M Petersham) is in my daughter's school curriculum. I have enjoyed their illustrations.

Anonymous said...

One would think that, in this day of vehement recycling, libraries would mark discards enough to identify them as such, but not so much as to render them defaced.

Mama Squirrel said...

The Poppy Seed Cakes--one of my favourites when I was young, and my kids like the story about Andrewshek jumping on his featherbed too.

Unknown said...

I loved to read "The Poppy Seed Cakes" to my boys when they were small. So glad that you managed to rescue it.

Martha A. said...

I totally understand getting rid of old books that are not readable, but if the book is not in bad shape, is not able to be replaced, keep it.
I used to work for a library also and our library here has mostly empty shelves because they got rid of so many books, even new series of books they do not have completed.

Oh, it probably was an over zealous stamper! It is fun to stamp when that is your job.