A concerned passerby, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Record after noticing a pile of discarded library books in a dumpster at G. P. Vanier Secondary School last week.
According to now-retired school principal Charlie Schellinck, the school library is being culled to remove outdated and unused books, and make room for newer, more relevant material.
Though the library follows a protocol to ensure any culled books that can be are passed on to charitable organizations or other groups or individuals, Comox Valley School District superintendent Sherry Elwood says some of the culled books do end up in the landfill.
“With our commercial disposal contract, that’s what we do unfortunately — they head towards the dumpsters,” says Elwood. “There’s no other way, in a big enterprise like the school district, to provide any other way to do that.”
Elwood adds library book culling is done throughout the district, and a process called MUSTY (Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Your collection has no use for the book) is used to choose which books to remove.
Using this process books are removed which contain obsolete information and racial, cultural or sexual stereotyping. Also, books which have newer versions like old encyclopedias, worn-out books, books with poor writing or inaccurate information and books that are generally irrelevant to the school’s curriculum are removed from the library shelves.
Before any books go in a dumpster, libraries attempt to find other homes for them, according to Elwood.
“Always we offer them to charities but there are times where they’re either so out of date that it wouldn’t be appropriate to send them on to other learners and we wouldn’t be disrespectful by sending them off to developing nations that way,” she says.
Vanier librarian Mary Whyte notes many books have been removed from Vanier’s library this year.
“This renews the collection to make it more vibrant, appropriate for the school population, up-to-date, and appealing,” she says in an e-mail.
“We tried several ways to find some of the books a new home, but one must realize that some of these books are not appropriate for any collection due to obsolete information or being worn out or dirty.”
She adds the library tried recycling some but the program became overwhelmed. Also, many of the books went to local organizations.
For example, Friends of the Library took some and the Courtenay Rotary Club took a bunch for its Books for the Cure fundraiser; Dave White, president of the Courtenay Rotary Club, picked up a whopping 35 boxes of books Thursday, according to Whyte.
She adds the additional space in the library is a good thing.
“We can showcase more current resources which appeal more to our student population, which then increases the circulation of the books still with us,” she says.