It seems to me that in the day and age of the computer, we ought to be doing a better job of making sure the children’s books that were worth buying in the first place don’t slip quietly away as libraries discard them. In the past, it was almost impossible to know if your library held the last copy of a book, whether it was #63 in a series of 64 books, or something by a local author who never won an award but was still really good or “the book I read when I was about 10 at summer camp about a girl who saves a horse. It had a green cover.” Now, it’s possible to know.
Whenever the subject comes up in youth services, as it recently did at a CCS meeting of the Public Access Services (PAS) group, the concern tends to be downplayed for some pretty good and some pretty bad reasons. A pretty good reason seems to be the library who is in the position of having to weed one book every time they purchase a book until their taxpayers vote them a new building. In that position, I would probably not be overly concerned about saving precious unique books. I would regret it….but I’d have other things on my mind.
The other reasons people give for not worrying about it don’t seem as plausible to me. There’s the:
~The Why should we care more about children’s books than adult books? argument to which I answer Not My Problem. Adult librarians can be in charge of worrying about that one.
~~The Is it really worth worrying about? There are new books coming out every day! argument to which I answer look at how popular old TV shows are. People like to read the books they read in their childhood when their kids and grandkids get to be the right age.
~~~The Don’t worry, the Library of Congress/Center for Children’s Books/Unnamed Magical Other Place with Infinite Capacity argument to which I answer Don’t count on it. The fact is, no one is making sure the last copies of things don’t disappear. I contacted Dr. Betsy Hearne at the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois, who confirmed that they are in fact weeding their collection right now too.
So none of those are great arguments or solutions as far as I can see. I’d like to see the conversation continue, because with the resources we have these days, we actually do know if we’re about to toss something out that might be the last of its kind. Is there some organized way we can try to hold onto those books?