Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, August 29, 2013

UPDATED: Supervisor Linda Smyth stops destruction of County library books

UPDATE:  Official word has been sent to county libraries not to destroy more books per the following e-mail:

From: Prasher, Janet H.
Sent: Friday, August 30, 2013 2:47 PM
To: LIB-Mgmt Teams
Cc: Clay III, Edwin S.; Molchany, Dave; Gates, Karen
Subject: Disposal of Library Materials

Effective immediately, please do not put any discarded FCPL materials in the 
dumpster at your branch.  No books or any other materials purchased with county 
funds should be put into the dumpster regardless of condition.  This includes 
any discarded library books given to the Friends for their ongoing sales that 
have not sold and books that are damaged. We will be sending instructions on 
what to do with these items as soon as possible. In the interim, please hold 
them at your branch.  If you have questions, please let me know. Thank you.

Janet H. Prasher
Support Services Associate Director
Fairfax County Public Library
703-324-8337  Government Center
703-222-3133  Technical Operations

Reliable sources tell us that Linda Q. Smyth, Providence Mill District Supervisor, was upset when she heard reports that the Fairfax County Public Library was destroying books.  She decided to check it out.

First, she went to the Chantilly library "technical operations" center and checked out the dumpster.  She found many books in very good or excellent condition, including a paperback Newberry Honor book in the dumpster.  She took a camera and took photos.  She was very upset.

She  returned to the dumpster and filled her car with large art books and reference books.  They were all in good condition.  She went to the government center and showed County Executive Ed Long and David J. Molchany, the Deputy County Executive who oversees the libraries and archives, what was going to be destroyed.  Sam Clay, director of the County library system, was called in to the office and ordered to stop destroying good books.

Hopefully, that ends this inexcusable County activity.

And, on behalf of all library and book lovers everywhere, especially those of us in Reston, thank you very much Supervisor Smyth.  It's nice to know that at least one of our county's supervisors cares about our public libraries.   


  1. What's inexcusable is the lack of understanding of how public libraries function.They are not book warehouses. For a collection to be current new books need to be purchased. Shelf space is finite. Therefore, someone has to choose what to discard to make room for newer, more current material. A library cannot operate without a constant flow of items to book sales, recycling, and (yes)the dumpster. With unlimited time and unlimited funds for staff every decision to discard would be perfectly considered. That just not realistic.

  2. two words - book sales

  3. Fairfax County Public Libraries must discard old, out of date materials - libraries cannot have inaccurate materials on their shelves. This is the wrong issue to be focusing on. The real issue is the lack of funding and support from county leadership. Other cities, that are not nearly as wealthy as Fairfax, have well funded and supported libraries. The real issue is why Fairfax County leadership pays lip service to libraries but then fails to fund these treasures that do so much good for the children of Fairfax County.

  4. A few more words: Shelters and schools.

  5. This is a practice going on for a long time in the system. I never understood why this books were not send to other areas in need of this items.

  6. Anon 1:55 If you think shelf space is finite, you need to spend some time looking through Reston Regional library. Lots of books are gone. We now have living rooms where bookshelves used to be.

  7. I think it's worth pointing out that the email DOES NOT instruct anyone not to destroy books. It merely instructs them very specifically not to put them in the dumpster, and that other instructions will be provided. Those other instructions are unspecified. It could be that the other instructions are to put them in a locked dumpster, where nobody can take inconvenient photos of them, or shred them, or burn them, etc. The email doesn't say. It just says they're not to be put in the dumpster.

  8. Libraries need to weed outdated and poor condition books. There is also a need to make room for new books on the shelves. But Fairfax libraries go beyond this in a constant search for more seating areas and perhaps, to neutralize the problems that weren't addressed with 'floating' the collection - too many books going to some libraries. The decision making is also being taken out of the hands of the branches' librarians, who are trained to evaluate and manage a collection. Where these good quality discarded books are going is also a big issue when it could be to the book sale, schools, shelter or even a reseller who could give money back to the libraries.

  9. Libraries need to maintain a core of high quality literature, reference works and childrens books while keeping up with newer fiction and best sellers. Because a book is not checked out frequently does not mean it should not be available in one or other of the libraries. Libraries are the guardians of great literature and if they just go with the most popular fiction we will lose our cultural heritage. Books deemed surplus should be sold to support further library funding. Most of all we should have someone in charge of our libraries WHO LOVES BOOKS!

  10. Libraries in poorer areas of our country and abroad could use these materials. Shame on whoever directed these actions. The administration is probably holding them for later discarding when the uproar subsides. I have asked Director Clay for a list of weeded materials.

  11. I certainly understand the need for the library to keep updating their selections as new materials come out. However, it seems like these old books could certainly be donated to shelters, schools, neighborhood resource centers and to the general public at large. Why not just have some shelves with the sign "FREE" above it and let customers take books home to keep?

  12. I like the idea of "free" that the person before me mentions. Sometimes books become damaged for example, water damage, stains or odor and those should be discarded. Same for outdated reference books. I am genuinely surprised by the books that were being discarded in the dumpsters though based on the pictures. While no library can store all books indefinitely, there are many 501c3 charities both in the US and abroad that would love to have the discards. There are also many places in every neighborhood that would love to have some of the books if they were free. For example, doctor's waiting rooms, hospitals, family day care sites, smaller hotels or bed and breakfasts, average everyday parents, etc... If the book has pictures, there are many artistic uses for the books as well.

  13. Books that were weeded from the collection had been donated to friends groups, etc but taxpayers were upset that library books were being given away or resold and there was an "uproar" (kind of like some of these comments). Do you really think librarians want to throw books away? Did you stop to think there might be other issues at play here?

  14. Some of the books that are being discarded are irreplaceable. Art books that are no longer in print are especially valuable in that they are not being published anymore because of the expense involved in reproducing large format full color plates. Collectors and dealers pay a fortune for these on the used book market -- just check out the prices on Amazon. The same is true for some subsets of fiction, such as older, classic science fiction titles. Does anyone in FCPL library technical services consult the Bookman's Price Index to determine value before discarding books with potential resale value? Obviously not.


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