Classics, or just old?

Lots of interest today in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial by John Miller, Checked Out, about libraries throwing out books not checked out in the past two years, especially classic literature. One of our library media specialists forwarded it via E-mail lists this morning and my colleague MB wrote about it on Impromptu Librarian.

While I agree with everything said about the role of libraries in the preservation of great thoughts, I am also mindful of the condition of many of these sacred cows on library shelves. Many are as old as their copyright date. Personally, I cannot get past the revulsion I feel in even touching the yellowed, musty smelling things. While some libraries have made a concerted effort to periodically replace the classics, more do not allocate any of their limited budgets to replace a book which statistically doesn’t get read anyway. And, if one truly wants to read one of the classics, they can go to an online or mall bookstore and buy something from the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, many available for less than $5.00 with a member discount.

Additionally, many of the classics are now in the public domain and can be acquired through one of the online repositories like Project Gutenberg, which incidentally also has audio books.

Interesting (and scary) — read the comments to the Miller editorial on For example:

Shut the Doors
Roger Hutchinson – Silver Spring, Md.
Maybe libraries should be subjected to the same scrutiny as its books. If less than 25% of the voters use a library in two years, close the library.