When I started working at the Vancouver Public Library as a lowly Library Assistant 1, otherwise known as shelving fodder, I was horrified when I learned about librarians’ systematic “weeding” of the collection. Putting books out to pasture – any book – seemed sacrilegious to me. Once the librarian explained it, it was obvious. It makes sense that you need to get rid of a book in order to make room for a new book. But it still doesn’t sit comfortably, even though I’m still using the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home that was put out to pasture in 1999.

But VPL “weeding” sacrilege is nothing compared to this: in Italy, an historic library, closed to the public for ten years, was systematically plundered by a gang of thieves…including the head librarian!

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“They once held works of extraordinary value. There was a 1518 edition of Thomas More’s brilliant and mysterious Utopia. Galileo’s 1610 treatise Sidereus Nuncius, containing more than 70 drawings of the moon and the stars. And Johannes Kepler’s study of the motions of Mars, Astronomia Nova, described as one of greatest books in the history of astronomy.”

And what’s more, the collection was in a shambles when someone finally got in: a dog was running around (and don’t get me wrong, I adore dogs, but….), there was paper everywhere, books were in heaps and there were leftover pop cans and more. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like. ….

“There was a dog roaming around the library with a bone in its mouth!

“There were books spread around everywhere – on the floor, on the stairs, on tables. There was garbage – soda cans and papers – on the floor. It was total confusion, a situation of major decay. One of the library’s members of staff took me aside, away from the CCTV cameras, and said: ‘Professor, the director has been looting the library!'”

And it gets worse: library identification markers were torn out, or cut out, permanently damaging irreplaceable volumes.


On a more positive note, Vancouver Public Library – together with Montreal Public Library – was recently ranked as the best public library in the world (according to a study done by researchers at Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf). And it’s well deserved: VPL is a fine library. And as far as I know, none of the librarians have been systematically pilfering from its collections…


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