A couple of years ago I did a post on crewing mustie books, a charming acronymic coinage meaning the throwing out of dead books. Now The New Yorker, via The Passive Voice, brings us a story on the subject.

IMG_0388We all tend to feel uneasy about destroying a book. Getting rid of 40,000 of them from the Berkeley, CA public library sounds appalling, but of course we need to consider the individual books in question, not to mention the space needed to keep on storing them. A few of the millions of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t really affect anybody. One suspects the world can go on quite happily without Be bold with bananas (See Awful Library Books, below). Biological anthropology and aging by Crews and Garruto might well contain important material for researchers, but one can see why this library withdrew the book — one reader in maybe 15 years! Still, of course, if it was an academic library, one might reasonably anticipate that they would keep such material. I think that even outdated books can contain important information. It may well be that biological anthropological research into aging has made vast strides in the last 20 years, but isn’t it maybe important to know what the state of knowledge was back then? I guess the Library of Congress can be relied on, but this sort of stuff is unlikely to make it as an e-book, so archival copies are important. The book has been scanned by Google Books, but Google isn’t of course allowed to share anything more than snippets with us!

Awful Library Books is an amusing site which displays many weeds. Some of them do look pretty awful, and surely every library doesn’t need to keep a copy. Still, it might be useful to someone — a future biographer? — to have a superannuated 1976 life of Carol Burnett for kids. I still give proud shelf space to a 1993 school library biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which I expect to provide valuable insights into the mind of our next president. (I do also keep it as an example of how school library books were bound in accordance to industry standards, it’s true.)