“Nine Plays by Eugene O’Neill” sat on the top shelf of a cart in the back room one day in late December, wedged between Voltaire’s “Candide” and “Broke Heart Blues” by Joyce Carol Oates. The cart brimmed with books that someone on Schlekau’s staff had pulled from the shelves. Sometimes she has time to give them another look before wheeling them to the book-sale pile. Sometimes she doesn’t.
The Oates would return to the shelf, “because she’s a real popular author at Woodrow Wilson,” even if “Broke Heart Blues” isn’t, Schlekau said. The Voltaire would go. An obscure Edgar Allan Poe volume called “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” might be transferred to another branch.
Schlekau hesitated over the volume of O’Neill plays, which was in good condition but had been checked out only nine times in its lifespan at the library, falling short of the system’s new goal of 20. She sighed. “The only time things like this are going out is if they’re [performing the plays] at the Kennedy Center.”
But, she said, she’s disinclined to throw O’Neill into the discard pile: “That’s the English major in me.”
That’s Linda Schlekau, manager of the Woodrow Wilson library in Fairfax County, Virginia. Apparently, since she wasn’t a Romance Languages major, Voltaire gets the axe! Here’s some more books that have been booted off the shelves at various Fairfax County branches: Doctor Zhivago, Remembrance of Things Past, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, and The Education of Henry Adams. (Odd, that last one’s American—somebody must have screwed up.) Read the whole infuriating thing here. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Still, it’s better than Jackson County, Oregon, which is planning to close all its libraries. Not reduce the number of branches, not limit the hours, not free up shelf space by culling the classics, just close them altogether. Did I miss the ballot measure that said we all should be stupid from now on? Yipes.