“Free Books”: An Investigation

For all of you who went into the library last week, looking for a place to study, and found that your usual seat was occupied by stacks of 1970’s mystery novels with a sassy yet classy female protagonist, or by historically inaccurate records of the Cold War, have no fear: the mighty Sentinel is here to clear up the confusion.

Last week hundreds of books were stacked, or rather scattered chaotically after having been rummaged through by students, on tables and shelves throughout the library above signs that said “free books.”  After getting over the initial annoyance of having a study spot taken away students began to embrace this concept and soon the more well known and relevant volumes started to quickly disappear.  Consequently by the time I got around to looking at the “free books” it became the exasperating task of sifting through stacks with titles like Insect Life of Serbia to come across a moderately compelling biography of Sir Thomas More.  Naturally, while searching through this eclectic hodgepodge of compositions, a question came to mind.  Why is the St. Luke’s Library giving these books away in particular? 

The answer is quite simply that the SLS library was in need of a little revamping. According the Mrs Nelson, many of the books that were given away were actually not up to date in their content or contained information and terms that nowadays we consider politically incorrect.  At long last, our library is purged of publications that falsely proclaim “Pluto” a planet (a travesty I personally still haven’t recovered from) or that use the term “Indians” rather than “Native Americans” to describe the first people to inhabit the Americas.  It’s not only a content issue: aesthetics come into play as well in determining which books stay and which go.  It seems we are innately a bit more prejudiced than we would like to think and do tend to judge books by their cover, at least in the literal sense.

Many of the books just appeared way too old, not in an “antique edition of The Hardy Boys that you found in a thrift store in Portland” kind of way, but just in the fact that they were too tattered and grungy to actually compel someone to read it.  Certain books have been replaced with up to date editions, online editions or editions with more modern covers.  For instance, the library recently purchased a set of Jane Austen novels with covers meant to emulate the designs found on the covers of the Twilight series.  Why someone would pick up a book with a cover similar to Twilight versus one with Colin Firth on the cover is beyond me, but if it gets more people reading, than what’s there to argue?

Although most of these books have been taken home by students to add to their personal libraries (i.e. monopolized by Editor in Chief Sebastian Bates ‘14) many of the more valuable collections have been donated to local and international charities.  Now only a few small volumes of what was once the expansive free book collection remain on a single shelf in the library, as if to symbolize the end of an era.  These changes to the content of our library will hopefully lead to more space for study and lounge areas as well as further improvements to the quality of the collection.  But for now, enjoy the return of your study space and the hopefully historically accurate and non-decrepit free books you have been lucky enough to grab.

Melanie Bow, School News Editor 

Posted by on October 23, 2012. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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