- A photo posted on Facebook of books, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” filling a Chicago high school dumpster as the result of a library renovation has spurred more than 1,000 comments, many criticizing the school’s use of funding and resources, Chalkbeat reports.
- Some posts, however, have been sympathetic with the school’s need to get to rid of outdated or surplus materials in order to make room for new titles or technology and note that some organizations don’t want donated books.
- A spokesman from Chicago Public Schools said the school district is now investigating the handling of the issue that has ignited the social media firestorm.
School libraries toss books for many reasons. Non-fiction books can especially contain outdated information that may confuse students, some books are no longer considered relevant or supportive of the curriculum being used in the classroom and others are now considered offensive. In many cases, schools simply have to let go of the old in order to make room for the new. However, experts recommend that care be taken when library conduct such a weeding process.
Disposing of books can be problematic. Tossing them in a dumpster might be the fastest way to dispose of them, but it can create a public relations nightmare. Bibliophiles are appalled at the treatment of classic literature and citizens with an eye on how public dollars are spent are outraged. The recent incident in Chicago is not the only one. Other incidents have been reported in New York and Florida in recent years.
There are other ways to dispose of unwanted books. Holding a community book sale is one way libraries can let go of books while raising money at the same time. Parent or student volunteers may be enlisted to also sell the books online as another way to raise money for projects, such as upgrades to the school media center or school lunch scholarship programs.
If school libraries have multiple copies of a book, such as "The Great Gatsby," they can check with English teachers to see if they can be used in classroom libraries for whole-class reading projects. Some schools offer the books for free to members of their community, where book lovers, book sellers and families that home school their children can put them to good use. And there are other schools and community organizations that may welcome these books as donations.
School leaders can consider the perception that tossing old books presents to the community. Pictures of books in a dumpster represent waste and a lack of respect for books to many members of the community. In this and in many other ways, school leaders want to guard their school’s reputation in order to prevent social media nightmares or potential lawsuits in more extreme cases.