This must be the season for weeding gone wrong. The latest story is from a high school library in Detroit, and I’m not quite sure what to think about it.
The high school library collection contained a book collection in African American history. According to a “former special education teacher” for the school district, the collection “rivaled the collections of many community colleges. You can’t put a value on that.”
Before I get to the destruction, I’ll start with some other questions.
First, is rivaling the collection of many community colleges really that big a deal? A lot of community college libraries are tiny and have almost no book collection. This collection had 10,000 books, so it was pretty big by some high school library standards, but not exactly huge.
Second, maybe you can put a value on that. Were these unique items, rare books, out of print material?
One report has it that the collection consisted of “rare and out of print works and a vast video collection that included 1943’s Cabin in the Sky.” That’s an important film, but it’s also streaming on YouTube and can be purchased on VHS from Amazon for $7.
Having said that, the value placed on the books is probably considerably more than the library could afford to replace them. That’s why when libraries get rid of books they try to do it carefully and thoughtfully.
Instead of doing that, this high school library took the Urbana, Illinois approach and put it on steroids.
Instead of a spreadsheet of old items, apparently the whole collection was just tossed in a garbage bin. That’s certainly one way to weed quickly.
Supposedly, there was no intention to weed, at least as far as I can tell from the article. The school district superintendent said “a work crew mistakenly disposed of the books.”
Then he apologized and said, “the buck stops here,” both taking responsibility and feeling like a guy who drops atomic bombs on people at the same time.
The culprit might be the charter management company that manages the schools there. They supposedly were “rehabilitating the library.” Maybe they confused “rehabilitating” with “disabilitating,” if that’s a word, and I don’t think it is. They made it up just for this project.
How could a work crew “mistakenly” throw out 10,000 items? That’s a lot of stuff. Someone somewhere must have had an order to get rid of something. Workers don’t just go into a building and start tossing out library collections willy-nilly.
Was it deliberate? Was it part of somebody’s plot to make the library “relevant” to the 21st century?
Or was there a grand conspiracy to eradicate local access to African American history?
Nah, that’s pretty unlikely.
Regardless, there might not be a big conspiracy, but something sure stinks here, plus a whole lot of kids will miss out on some African American history.