Time of death….

Wilderness Gear coverThis was written when I was a little more than irritated about the umpteenth time I have seen more tape than book. The “rescue at all costs” a 5 dollar paperback is one of my top library peeves (right after old career books, sitting in a meeting that never ends, jammed printers and sales calls when I am at the desk.) 

Wilderness Gear You Can Make Yourself

The above picture cannot do this particular book justice. The cover was falling off and pages were falling out and there is more tape than book. At what point did the library decide enough is enough?

The content looks good, although dated. I have no doubt that this book was well used in its 40 plus years of service. Frankly it is an interesting topic and I know it would do well in my community. That said, assuming reasonable circulation numbers, this book probably traveled through quite a few hands over the last 40 years and only now, in 2016, it is a “problem?” I’d be willing to bet that many people have noticed this book’s obvious wear. I have had patrons make me look at a stray pencil mark in a book and make me swear that I won’t blame them for the damage. Seriously.

Paperbacks are not “forever” books. They have a short life span. At some point, you just have to let them die in a dignified manner. Taping and repairing a book (especially a paperback) should be done with an eye toward cost-benefit. Putting a couple of dollars worth of tape and using staff time on a dying book is not efficient. Even the quickest repair, done by a volunteer, is ultimately going to be more expensive than the cost of the book.

How many humans touched this book in the last 40 years and didn’t notice the yellowing tape and ragged edges? I know this didn’t happen in a single use. Human intervention is an essential part of weeding. As much as I love charts and reports, ultimately eyes on an actual item and walking the stacks is just as important as an ILS report. All staff need to understand the definition of “damaged,” and make sure items that cannot be saved are given a proper goodbye. I have a feeling that staff kept saying its “good enough” and did very least they could do to avoid paperwork, debates over condition, etc.

Be ready and clear with standards in your library so that there is no debate on a books “time of death”. Clear process and procedure as well as empowering all staff to act on damaged materials is essential to a clean and happy library collection. Don’t let those paperback stay on life support forever. It’s not worth it.

Wilderness Gear back cover

One comment

  1. I think, if someone saw this book on a coffee table somewhere would I feel proud of it as representing the stock of my library? Apply this to yellowing, brittle old paperbacks held together with tape and the answer is a loud ‘NO’.

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