After reading Michael Kelley’s editorial on Melvil Dewey and weeding (“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Dust,” LJ 2/1/13, p. 8), I remembered my first library position of nearly 30 years ago. It was my first full-time librarian position, and, with diploma in hand, I was ready to be the best library media specialist the world had ever experienced. I was sure I could do it all. I joined every committee, judged and organized media fairs, and worked after school hours…. Even the classroom teachers loved me. Life was good.
Then, suddenly, I became the enemy. I didn’t know what had caused this drastic turn of events, so I decided to speak with the school principal. I told him just what I have written here, and without further discussion, he asked me to have a seat. Then he closed his office door, something he rarely did…. I was sure I was about to be fired. As I bravely held back the tears, he patted my hand, told me to relax, and spent a minute extolling me….
Before I could speak, he asked, “Have you started weeding the collection?” I had indeed been doing that. Was I not allowed to? I had learned how to perform this delicate operation in graduate school. I knew I was doing it as I had been taught, so what was wrong? My principal…said there were some things they didn’t teach you about weeding.
Here are his wise weeding instructions:
- Do not ever tell anyone—except me—that you are getting rid of library books. Every book you weed out of the collection will be someone’s favorite. They just haven’t had time to read it in the past ten years or so.
- Only weed books when no one else but me is in the building. Do not even trust the cleaning people; they might be informants.
- Schedule your weeding time with me, and I will help you carry the books to my ex-brother-in-law’s pickup.
- We will probably do our weeding after dark, so park your car down the street so that no one knows you are here. Dress in all-black clothing. Meet me in the back of the school by the sycamore tree.
- Bring a good flashlight. We don’t want to turn on the library lights; that might arouse suspicion.
- I will have had a large pit dug in the next county where we will bury the weeded books.
- When the weeding is done and someone asks for a book you have just weeded…look them in the eye and tell them that someone was seen here with a flashlight, loading books into an old pickup. They were last seen heading south.
Best advice I ever received!
—Debbie A. Ramirez, Lib. Dir.,
Vincennes Univ., Jasper, IN
A prison priority
Libraries and education should be a priority for the American prison system (Stephen M. Lilienthal, “Prison and Public Libraries,” LJ 2/1/13, p. 26–32). If inmates can be trained to be self-sufficient after release, they will be able to live their lives free of crime. This is cost-effective for the government, and, more important, it is the ethical way to treat criminal justice. Perhaps the bigger issue is the perception of inmates. If we choose to acknowledge the potential of each person in a prison, regardless of [their] crime or sentence, then we will give them the same learning opportunities afforded to nonincarcerated individuals. We as a society must value our members if we expect them to value themselves.
—Jackie Schecter, Student, SILS,
Pratt Inst., New York
Please be aware, Michael Kelley, that you do not speak for all librarians, library workers, library administrators, or library users (Michael Kelley, “No Guns in the Library,” LJ 1/13, p. 8). I am and have been a concealed weapons permit holder for years. I am also a professional librarian and have been for years. I know at least four other librarians who are licensed to carry, including one who is a retired police officer.
I’m certain that there are many more of us…who quietly go about our business every day…. I do not choose to carry my firearm while in my place of employment out of deference to my employer’s policy on the subject, not because there is any law against it. My library is just about the only place outside my home that I don’t carry a firearm…. Not every library is located in a “safe” neighborhood, not every librarian lives in a “safe” neighborhood…and not every “safe” neighborhood is as safe as you might think.
My library is in what most would call a very safe area, and yet it has been touched by the death of a coworker at the hands of a violent offender on library property. Any frontline library worker who has never dealt with a patron who is clearly mentally ill, intoxicated, or dangerously belligerent has probably not been on the job very long. I have been approved by both my local Sheriff’s Department and my state to carry a weapon where and how I choose. Thankfully, I have never needed to use my firearm, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give it up to you or anyone else.