Friday, November 13, 2009

Miss Information is annoyed by generosity

One of Miss Information's least favourite patrons--the cranky actress--came into the library recently. She wanted a specific play. She needed it for an audition later that day. She knew it was in the library because a couple of months ago, she had donated her own copy. Now she wanted it back.

Miss Information looked in the catalogue but of course, the library had not kept the book. The woman was incensed. She lived across the street. She gave it to the library because she had no room at her house and she knew she just pop over and get it any time she wanted.

Miss Information thinks that the organization the woman needed was called a "storage facility". Common mistake. Libraries, though, are completely different. They are not a place to come when you run out of bookshelves. Here books come and books go. Tragically, this book had gone.

The woman got even more angry. She'd had enough of this library. She's never donating another book. Not ever.

Noooooooo!!! Not that!!!!!

Miss Information is not going to lose any sleep over that threat. In fact, it has cheered her up enormously.

Here's a big secret about the library. The library hates donations. Staff members are trained to smile when they take your moth-ball smelling, pink-highlighted, mouldy, water damaged, yellowed books but in most cases you should have just thrown them into the recycle bin and save yourself the trip to the library. So, Cranky Actress, Miss Information hopes you and your coffee stained old books will be happy together.

23 Comments:

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian said...

Damn right! Keep your cigarette smelling, bookworm eaten pulp fiction to yourself! Of course, there probably aren't any actual library patrons reading this... :(

 
At 5:27 PM, Blogger jane said...

Yes! THANK YOU!

 
At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention paged-ripped-out or cover-missing books. We don't want those either!

 
At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Annie said...

My public library has twice-yearly book sales for things taken out of circulation as well as donated items that they don't want/can't use. It's a huge three-day sale; they take over an airplane hangar at the naval base, and a lot of their customers are used bookstore owners who buy several hundred books at a time. I've been to the sale a couple of times, and a good percentage of what they have is mass market editions, which don't hold up well for library use.

Since you're all librarians (I'm guessing) and you seem very anti-donation, I'm curious if your libraries don't sell off what's donated to you. I always assumed that our public library makes enough money from the sales to make it worthwhile because otherwise they wouldn't bother, but if, as you all seem to indicate, it's just a big honking nuisance, then maybe I won't donate my unwanted books -- which tend to be in good condition and not generally pulp fiction (although I'm not a snob about these things so you never know what might end up my reading list).

It's just a little disconcerting to hear that books I could have been selling used on half.com or amazon and instead have been giving away to support an underfunded city service are actually not wanted.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger kmthelibrarian said...

Annie,
It depends on the library. A lot of these large book sales are organized by "Friends of the Library" organizations; if a library doesn't have a Friends group, or if the staff is small, it's often difficult if not impossible to organize a book sale. I've worked at and have many friends at small libraries--no matter how much we might live to organize a book sale for donated and weeded books, the time required to do so makes such an undertaking impossible.

Libraries who want donations for book sales will often solicit them--in which case, donate away. I'm a school librarian now, and often accept donations from students and teachers, which I accept with open arms; some end up in my collection, many end up in the "take a book, leave a book" libraries, but all books in good shape are welcome. However, last year a student's grandparents donated 600 books that they had been storing in a barn for over a year, and were full of mold, dust, and who knows what else. I had to go through those boxes to make a list of titles for them (for tax purposes), but due to the condition of the books wasn't able to add any of them to my library. it took many, many hours and was, in a word, frustrating.

How a library handles donations will vary from library to library; if you want to be sure that your donations are wanted, or wonder how they'll be handled, just ask. Many are grateful for them--and it sounds like your public library is one of them.

 
At 4:14 PM, Blogger xine said...

I would say, depends on the donation. Does this book look like something you would find on the shelf at your library? Uh, and by that I mean, in an ideal sense.

If that book is newish, in good condition, and would be read by your neighbour, then donate! And the cataloguer (me) will thank you.

If that book is old and yellowed, cruddy in any way, and something you're giving away cuz you never read it yourself, forget it. Maybe we can sell it, or maybe I recycle it immediately.

But I am sick (literally, mould, you see) of stupid donations. Stupid is books that you wouldn't even have on your shelf, which is why they've been shoved in a box for who knows how long then unhelpfully given to the library who then has to deal with it, cuz you can't deal with the guilt of tossing a book.

"You" doesn't mean you Annie, it means anyone who doesn't work at the library and fits the unthinking description. Annie has thought about it and obviously has good taste in books. Please continue to donate Annie. We thank you.

Love, the cataloguer.

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Annie said...

Thanks for your responses. I suppose getting a certain amount of what's technically trash is par for the course for anyplace that accepts donations of goods, but I can definitely understand how unpleasant it must be to sort through that stuff.

 
At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Lib. Tech. up North said...

Whhhaaaaaat? You DON'T keep the Readers' Digest Condensed books my grand mother gave you? Don't you LIKE good literature?

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger dancer said...

Annie;

We get tons of donations, and some of them are like new. Some of these are current bestsellers, and we are thrilled to get them. There are others that we just don't need that we give to the Friends of the Library for their book sale. However, we have also gotten books that were falling apart and moldy from being in someone's attic, basement or garage. We have even seen bugs crawling around in the boxes. Some things just need to be thrown away, and if they can't bring themselves to do it, we will have to do it for them.

 
At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in a medical library in a children's hospital. Someone phoned up one day wanting to donate a bunch of Harlequin Romances about doctors and nurses, in case the staff wanted some leisure reading. I just said we didn't collect fiction, and refrained from pointing out that most doctors and nurses probably wouldn't be thrilled with the way their professions are portrayed by Harlequin.

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once-read current bestseller = wonderful donation

Rare historical item relative to a library's collection = wonderful donation

Thirty years of National Geographic and set of encyclopedias from 1961 (missing volume "DEA-FOR", of course) = not so much

 
At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Inky said...

By no stretch of the imagination is an old IKEA catalogue or calculator manual going to benefit the library. If I had a nickel for every moldy, stinky, falling apart books I've had to deal with when I go through donations, I'd be retired already.

Fortunately, we do get great books sometimes and I was lucky enough that I once received 75 boxes full of once-read bestsellers - even better, they didn't want a tax receipt!!

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger archiving_girl said...

Just discovered you blog! Absolutely fabulous! We get a lot of people trying to donate their 'rare' and old books to our archives. Unfortunately, we don't collect single published items. Also, if there a bazillion copies running around, it probably isn't rare :( So then we tell them to talk to our acquisitions librarian! :P

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Priscilla said...

I found this entry to be particularly amusing and emailed the link to the librarian I did a practicum with over the summer! Thanks for the laugh!

-a library student

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Nixon is in hell said...

"Miss Mew, Miss Mew, you are irresistible!"

Having sampled your blog entries, I understand now why Vince is so enamoured by you, heheh...

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Sunnie said...

You are so funny! I'm lucky enough not to have the task of going through book donations. Our unlucky Collection Development Co-ordinator once found bed bugs - yes folks, the blood sucking scourge of prisons, cheap hotels and tenements, BED BUGS crawling throughout the box and IN the books. My skin crawled just hearing about it and I can imagine how one bad, no HELLISH, experience like that could ruin the joy of looking through donated books ever after...

 
At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More fuel for the yule bonfire!

 
At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the problems we see with donations (aside from the smelly, moldy, and/or ancient books) is that people assume, like the woman MI describes, that any book they donate will be added to the library's collection. Too often they don't understand the library's procedures for adding materials. Our system won't add a single title of anything, and won't add an item that's more than 3 years old, so I doubt we would have added her play either. And sometimes we get donations through our bookdrop with a note attached saying they want the books added to the collection, not put into the book sale--and they don't leave a name or phone number, so there's no way to reach them to give the books back. I appreciate that people want to add to the collection, but they don't realize our hands are tied by cataloging and acquisitions policies

 
At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My library got a donation of books that had been stored in a barn. Quite literally, a barn. Straw, vegetable matter, corpses of small (and large) insects, dried bits of what we hoped was mud and not manure. But under this patina of grime was quite a good collection of late-Victorian fiction, so it was deemed worth saving. We labelled the boxes "FILTHY BOOKS" and put them aside until we could get down to the deep cleaning.

A few weeks later a couple of teenage boys came smirking up to the desk and asked to see the "filthy books". I kind of enjoyed telling them that the filth they were expecting was not the filth they were going to find.

 
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