At NJ Libraries, Out With the Old and In With the New
Libraries across New Jersey are getting millions of new books a year.
To make room, they will engage in what’s referred to as “collection management.”
“The Somerset County library will purchase 81,000 new books a year for 10 different branches, which means we pretty much have to take out 81,000 items per year,” said Brian Auger, the Somerset Library County administrator.
He explained they accomplish this by doing several things.
"Is the information out of date? Is it a computer book? A medical book? Whatever the information is clearly outdated, that needs to go — period,” he said.
“We’ll also consider disposing of a book by asking is it worn out? And if so, is it something that might be in demand. We’ll buy another copy but we’ll take the worn out copy out.”
They’ll also consider if anybody is reading a particular book.
“We can tell by the number of circulations, the number of times the item has been borrowed,” said Auger.
“What we’re doing is letting the people tell us what they want in their library collections, and what they don’t want.”
He noted libraries in New Jersey and across the country are changing the way they make information available.
“The last encyclopedia that we maintain as a paper volume in libraries is the World Book encyclopedia. It’s primarily aimed at younger users. Otherwise, we depend on online resources,” he said.
For simple information, people used to have to physically go to a library. But these days “that’s gone, because people know where to look for what’s the capital of Zimbabwe, and it isn’t in a book, it’s online.”
Auger said there have been dramatic changes, but the library’s core mission remains the same — to connect people with information.
“That involves knowing our communities and knowing what their interests are and what they’re looking for, and then knowing the world of information as well,” he said.
He explained the library still has dozens of different magazines, but they don’t keep them for five or 10 years the way they once did.
“It’s easier to use and find electronically,” he said
You can still read a printed magazine at the library but “we have a product called Flipster with up to a hundred up-to-date magazines available for you to read page by page on your tablet or PC.”
So what happens to all the old books that are “cycled out”?
“If it’s outdated information and really shouldn’t be in anybody’s hands, an outdated drug information book is a good example, we recycle that,” he said.
“If it’s in really bad shape and there’s no interest in it, we’re going to recycle that as well. But if it’s something that might still have value to somebody, we offer them to our 'friends' groups at each of the branches for them to sell in their book sales, or we box them up and send them to Better World Books.”
Better World Books sells used library materials online, and the library that provides those books will get a portion of the profits, or they’re donated as part of humanitarian efforts.
“The goal is always to keep them out of a landfill and in use,” he said.
He added many people may not consider going to a library, but perhaps they should.
“You’d be surprised by what we have. And you really should pay us a visit, we do our very best to make sure that you’ve got ready, easy access to everything you’d likely be interested in.”