Our friends over at Redeemed Reader have been mulling over the hype and melodrama of Banned Books Week. The discussions have reminded me of a little known fact: you can advocate for your chosen books, your most cherished book “friends”, the kinds of books you think people should be reading by a very unobtrusive type of library activism: CHECK OUT THE BOOKS.

Because of privacy concerns, most circulation records are not identified by person anymore–no one will pull your particular circulation history. But they will be able to see which books have been checked out and how frequently. Every single library must go through a weeding/culling/deselecting (aka “throwing away books”) process on a regular basis. Some titles are obviously out of date (any computer manual pre-2000 is definitely obsolete). Some books are simply falling apart. Sometimes more shelf space is needed. Guess which books make the cut? Those that have been checked out in the past few years. If a book hasn’t been checked out in the past few years, it will be on the chopping block before a hot “checkout.”

So, what does that mean for you, the faithful library user? DON’T BUY BOOKS–CHECK THEM OUT!! Seriously, there are some definitely family faves at our house that I see no need to buy. Why not? They’re at the library and, when I pull out a beloved book from the library bag, it’s like greeting an old friend. We’ve checked out The Story of Ping, Corduroy, Petunia, Horton Hears a Who, Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, The Duck in the Truck, and countless others multiple times this year. One time, when I pulled out The Story of Ping after arriving home, my kids actually cheered.

I think it fosters more love for these particular books–they don’t grow old. And Mommy doesn’t get tired of reading them. I can read Ping 21 days in a row, and then I gratefully return it to its library shelf home. When circulation records are examined, it will be obvious that the community of my particular library is reading these kinds of books–they will stay on the shelves. Newbery- and Caldecott-winning authors and illustrators are more likely than others to stay on shelves; recognized classics (like those I just mentioned in the picture book category) are also likely to stay on the shelves. But other hidden gems don’t get circulated because people don’t know about them. Check them out and then tell a neighbor how great the book was. Libraries do factor in community interests when making decisions about which books to buy–let your checkout “voice” be heard.

Consider this form of positive library activism. If your kids really enjoy old-fashioned stories like The Magic Summer, The Children of Green Knowe, or The Five Little Peppers, check them out! More than once! If your kids enjoy non-vampire teen fiction and find some great titles, check them out! Frequently!

What are some of your personal favorites that you think the library should keep on its shelves? Leave us a comment!

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