Trashing the classics
I'm generally a supporter of the free-market. It is actually one of our founding principles and our first ambassadors to Europe fought hard for free markets for our new country. There are some things, however, that perhaps shouldn't have to bend to market pressure. Like the great literature and events which contributed to the shaping of our nation, for example.
You can't find "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings" at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or "The Education of Henry Adams" at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest"? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.

It's not that the books are checked out. They're just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.
As the citizens of Fairfax, VA demand more books on tape, CDs and other multimedia, precious shelf space is being found by removing unpopular books that the computer shows haven't been checked out enough to warrant the space they take up. Although librarians have so far decided to keep them, Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" are also on the list of books which haven't been checked out in at least two years. That slates them for consideration for disposal.

So, should public libraries model themselves after businesses such as Barnes & Nobles, stocking what sells? Or should they continue with their tradition of providing communities with a "core collection for the cultural education of [their] communit[ies]?"

What's a homeschooler to do when all the great books we look forward to sharing with our children are weeded out to make way for John Grisham and whatever Oprah happens to be reading? On the other hand, maybe it is time for a trip to Fairfax, VA. While the smallest of their branch libraries is discarding 700 books per month, I'm sure there are some deals to be had on exactly the kind of books I'm most likely to be interested it.

Of course, I must also ask what is wrong with a culture that prefers computers, meeting spaces and private reading carrels at their local libraries to actual books. As Joseph Brodsky said,

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."

Hat Tip: The Liberty Papers

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