Am I the only one who is mad at libraries for getting rid of their “old” books? School libraries are some of the worst offenders, regularly cancelling them and even throwing them away if no one takes them.
Some of the best books from my young adult years were hand-me-downs from my grandparents, parents and older siblings. When I did go to the library, I saw past the plain covers and creamy pages of the older books. Although I borrowed plenty of novels by Lois Duncan and Judy Blume (which are probably also considered old by today’s standards!), my favorites were Polly Kent Rides West in the Days of ’49 and The Wagon to the Star.
Old books are like snapshots in time, glimpses of the way things used to be. They should be treasured for their capacity to (accurately) whisk one off to eras and places long gone. Through them we can experience history for ourselves, “hear” how people spoke, “see” the clothes they wore and learn about the places they lived. Old books acquaint us with the values of the past and provide continuity with the present when we recognize those same attitudes in ourselves.
Although some popular classics remain on the shelves, their age disguised by updated jackets, many of the best ones are gone. Library copies of Betty Cavanna, Beverly Butler and Elizabeth George Speare books are purchased at sales or retired to land fills. I have spoken about this with librarians, who respond that kids today don’t want to read the older books, but I suspect that the librarians are really the guilty ones. If they had read them, they would be spending their time trying to get the students to check them out, not putting them on a cart in the hall.