Bookgate in Urbana, Illinois at the Urbana Free Library

People in Urbana Illinois are up in arms that the Urbana Free Library director decided to discard a large portion of the library's non fiction collection. Shelves were left bare after books older than 10 years old were summarily discarded. Citizens, up in arms after their library collection was decimated, packed a library board meeting to demand answers.

Every library weeds old books from their shelves, partly to make room for new ones, partly to remove surplus copies of no longer popular titles, and partly to get rid of texts that are no longer accurate or true. The last is most critical for nonfiction, where old works in science or medicine can be misleading or even dangerous.

Weeding is one of those arcane skills that is taught in library school. (Back off, man, I'm a library scientist!) The problem happens when you don't pay attention to a wide range of factors when looking at what to get rid of.

My own bookshelves get sorted through from time to time, and I count on the library to backstop my collection when it's time to make room for new materials. It would be horrible to have that extra set of shelves full of books laid bare by an overzealous discard policy.


#bookgate detailed timeline of links (Google Doc)

Twitter: #bookgate

Chicago Sun-Times: Why do the shelves at the Urbana Free Library look so empty?

Book Riot: Bookgate: When Urbana Free Library Purged Thousands of Books

Smile Politely: Miscommunication, or mismanagement?

Smile Politely: “Public officials do not have the luxury of lying”

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