Awful Library Books (somewhere else)

| January 18, 2012

Weeding… A necessary and often painful reality of collecting books for any library is the fact that librarians must also weed. No one who loves books enjoys the thought of getting rid of books, and yet, there are many tremendously positive reasons for deaccessioning titles the library no longer has use for: an outdated concept (think computer technology), a title with outdated bias (racism, sexism, etc), a title whose claims may no longer be accurate (science textbooks), or maybe the title was simply the wrong choice for the collection in the first place (it’s never been checked out). If the concept of weeding brings you to tears, I would like to introduce you to a wonderful website full of real life and convincing must-weed cases: awfullibrarybooks.net.

The website collects stories from librarians around the country who discover odd books in their collections and email screen shots to Holly and Mary, the keepers of the site. From their own description, “This site is a collection of library holdings that we find amusing and maybe questionable for libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection.” Their goal is to give librarians a place to gripe and laugh over strange titles in their collection, but it also provides a forum for librarians to write in about the philosophical quandries that arise when weeding books.

For example… Diet, Crime and Delinquency. The cover features a punk rock young man attacking a pile of donuts with a switch-blade, which is both terrifying and… awesome. From the back of the book: “…demonstrates how ‘junk’ food diets, sugar starvation, vitamin deficiencies, lead pollution and food allergies can convert a normal brain into a criminal mind.” If it amazes you that anyone could have conceived and published such a book in 1981, you are not alone, but it should surprise you MORE that libraries around the nation collected this.

The blog also features a baby book published in 2003 called 40,001 Best Baby Names which suggests you might name your child “Schmoopie” and which provides questionable lists of names like, “Famous Mob Names” or “Girl Names for Children of Lesbians and Gays.” (whoa!) I hate to seem like a lady with no sense of humor, but I’m not aware of any queer community meeting where we discussed best baby names.

If you are still unconvinced that weeding is necessary, just check out the site in its full grandeur here.