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what a waste!

The One Book, One Chicago program is launched each spring and fall to cultivate a culture of reading and discussion in Chicago by bringing our diverse city together around one great book. Reading great literature provokes us to think about ourselves, our environment and our relationships. Talking about great literature with friends, families and neighbors often adds richness and depth to the experience of reading. We invite you to join us as we explore yet another great piece of literature.
- from the One Book, One Chicago website

The first time I heard about this program was back in Fall 2006, where I saw intriguing colorful posters of Indian hands and eyes advertising Jhumpa Lahiri's The Interpreter of Maladies at the el stations I'd frequent. Interpreter of Maladies Then in March '07, I walked into the Popular Library and saw shelf after shelf of this book, in both paperback and hard cover versions: it was the end of the One Book, One Chicago program for that season, and so all the books that had been bought in order to satisfy the demand during the season were no longer in circulation.

I did idly wonder what they were going to do with all those books, then put it out of my mind.

Since then, the program (which actually started in 2001) has featured Go tell it on the mountain by James Baldwin, The crucible by Arthur Miller, The long goodbye by Raymond Chandler, and most recently, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I didn't bother with any of those... I had checked out a copy of The Right Stuff, but didn't end up reading it, so I returned it unread.

Today, Kosh and I dropped by the library; while we were there, we checked out the discard alcove, where the library places a whole bunch of books that have been purged from their collection for a variety of reasons. There are occasional gems: I had found Alex Bledsoe's The Sword-Edged Blonde there once, to my horror and amazement, but I was quick to grab it :) But today... oh my... today I felt such disgust at the sight:

That's right... the most recent One Book, One Chicago selection is being given away, essentially for free: suggested donations for paperbacks is like ten cents. I counted about twenty of these paperbacks, that officially sell for $16 (Amazon marks them down to ~$11), and I'm sure there are/were plenty more.

It was so ~wrong~ to see all those books discarded just like that!

I'm not entirely unsympathetic:
  • I'm sure the library got a good deal buying these books in bulk, so it's not like they are throwing out a whole bunch of $16 books...
  • They still have TONS of the hardcover version of this book within the CPL system - so they are just getting rid of the paperbacks, which won't last as long anyway.
  • Because they are a library and not a book shop or a commercial entity, I figure they might not be allowed to sell the excess books to anyone, even if they could probably turn a tidy profit by selling said books to a second-hand bookstore for $5 each.

But still!!

Surely they have better options than practically giving them away???

Any librarians want to weigh in?

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  1. I live out in the south suburbs of Chicago and the libraries in our village and the surrounding towns all have perpetual book sales of used books. I also worked at the library in Niles that had their sale a couple times a year. Glencoe also did their sale a couple times a year and they start out with books for maybe $5 for large hardcover books, $3 for smaller ones, then childrens books and paperbacks are priced lower. The last day of the sale you could fill a bag for like $10. The Glencoe and Niles sales were run by "Friends of the Library". So perhaps the library gives them to the "Friends" and they sell them and in turn spend money on special programs for the library. I don't know the arrangement out here in the south suburbs because I haven't purchased any used books from them.

  2. That is surprisingly that they just discard them... but unless they save them for a sale where the books gets a higher price, or donate them, what else would they do with them? Hmmm.

  3. I would think it would be better to sell them on Amazon or eBay & make money for the library.


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