Reflections on the Books Not Read

For the last few weeks, I have been doing this internship at the Hyde Park Free Library. The bulk of my time so far has been dedicated to setting up their official Facebook page and working on other online endeavors. But this past Thursday, the library director, Greg, asked me if I wanted to help him with weeding. (For those not in the library world, weeding is what it sounds like: removing books from the collection that nobody is reading). Eager for the experience, I responded with a resounding “Oh hell yes!” and got to work.

Oh, the POWER! Muahaha!

The idea of weeding is appealing to me I think because I’m always looking for ways to downsize and streamline in my own life. I bought a Nook so that I could have one device instead of many books. I don’t collect things just to collect them. If I own an item, it’s generally because I intend for it to be used, and if it’s not used, I usually have no problem getting rid of it. Maybe I’ve been watching a little too much Hoarders, but the idea of streamlining the collection sounded fantastic. (As an aside, I kind of wished we were weeding out that copy of Snooki’s book sitting on the New shelf and throwing it back into the stinking pit of deepest Hell from which it came, but I can’t get everything I want.) I also figured this would be a good chance to write a blog entry about my experience. So here I am, writing a blog entry!

Basically, the process went like this: For the last twelve years or so, the library has been using a program called Millennium to do pretty much everything with the materials they have (checking out, checking in, putting on hold, sending to other libraries, etc etc etc). Greg made a print out of all of the books that hadn’t circulated in the entire time they’ve had Millennium–so, yeah, nobody had read these books in at least twelve years. Then I just took the list, found the books on the shelves, took them out of the computer system (by marking them as “discard”), stamped them with a fun DISCARDED stamp and blacked out the barcode. (Well, there was a little more to it than that–I looked to see if Hyde Park was the only library with the book. If no other library in the system had it, I would put it aside for Greg to look at and decide. Same for “classic” authors. Nobody had taken out a Balzac book in God-knows-how-long but I felt funny just discarding it, so I put it aside for Greg to look at before getting rid of it.)

So, now my observations! What did I learn about people’s reading habits? What kinds of patterns emerged among these unwanted books?

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Why Librarians are AWESOME

Ok, so here’s the deal. I have a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies. When I started my degree, back in ye olde year 2000, everybody told me “oh, it doesn’t matter what you get your degree in! Having a degree in anything will get you a job!” Well, come to find out that’s not exactly true. I don’t regret my degree, don’t get me wrong. If I could do it over again I’d probably go back and get the same degree all over again, because I didn’t go to college to prepare myself for a career, really. I went for my own intellectual development.

Anyway, the end result is that I have a bachelor’s degree but I work in retail as a cashier (for now!) I am, as I’ve said before, going to grad school for library science, and it wont be long now until I am done. Come back in four months or so and you will find that I have become (as I tell JP) the MASTER OF (LIBRARY) SCIENCE. (Insert evil laugh here.)

Working in retail though, in the mean time and well… I have to tell you I am surprised at how unsupportive my coworkers are of my career goals. In passing, I mentioned to another associate that I was almost done with my master’s degree. “In what?” she asked. “I’m getting my MS in library and information science,” I replied. “Uhh, good luck with that” she answered. I chose to take that as an actual statement of good will and encouragement and thanked her. She clarified, in a nasty tone “I mean good luck getting a job doing that.”

Her reaction is typical among my coworkers, it seems. When they find out what I want to do with my life, their responses range from calling me a nerd to telling me I’ll never be able to secure employment doing that to saying things like “You must really like books, huh?” and then bragging (?) about how they haven’t set foot in a library or read a book since they were children. Uh, good for you? Does that make you cool or something? One coworker, upon hearing my plans, responded by asking me why I’d want to be the “nerdy librarian lady.” Um, I think you meant to say awesome librarian lady, right?

So I don’t get this really. What’s not awesome about librarians?

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