Ogden principal: We're not throwing out books

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:29 PM

Mark Saal, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Rumors of stacks of school library books slated for destruction have caused some concern among local literature lovers.

Christie Malan, a retired teacher from the Ogden School District, said she was at Hillcrest Elementary School in Ogden recently when she saw piles of older books stacked in the library. She heard a rumor that the books were scheduled to be thrown away.

“I’ve just never seen so many that were going to be thrown in the Dumpster like that,” she said. “I was told they’ve been instructed to clean out the books and throw them away. Hundreds and hundreds of books — they’re just going to throw them away, they’re not going to give them away. I understand they’re doing it throughout the district.”

Graciela Aparicio, principal at Hillcrest Elementary, said nothing could be further from the truth. She wishes the folks who started the rumors had come to her first.

“No, we’re not throwing out books,” Aparicio assured. “Books that are irreparable will be recycled. The other books will be handed out to students.”

She said examples of irreparable books are those with missingpages, or bindings that can’t easily be fixed.

Ogden City Schools Superintendant Brad Smith said it’s normal at every school, every year, that they “cull the herd of books that are outdated or worn out — books that are otherwise past their sell-by date.”

What may have happened here, Smith said, is that the “culling” process hadn’t been done at Hillcrest Elementary in a couple of years, so there may have been more books involved — which may have raised concerns among some.

Smith said his understanding is that the books in question were placed into one of three categories: books determined to be outdated, such as older encyclopedias; books that were duplicates at the library; and books that were beyond repair. The first two groups are offered to students and thrift stores. The third group would be recycled.

Aparacio said she’s not sure just how many books would be recycled, but insisted that most of the books will be given out — at least one per student. The books will be distributed at the school’s upcoming Educational Parent Instructional Conference (similar to parent-teacher conferences). The plan is to present each of Hillcrest’s 489 students with a book from the school library.

“We’re hoping every student gets at least one; I hope we don’t run out,” Aparicio said. “If we do run out, I have some books at home in my personal collection that I’ll be giving out.”

Amy Jamison, a district teacher librarian who has been involved in the process at Hillcrest, said removing titles is standard library practice.

“This is a transition year at some schools,” she said. “We’re making room to update the collections.”

This weeding process is never an easy task, Jamison said.

“No one likes to throw away books. It’s a bitter feeling,” she said. “But books, to me, have value when they’re read by students, so it’s important to fill the shelves with books the kids will read.”

Aparicio said she’s excited to be making room for new books in the library.

“We’re purchasing new books,” she said. “We’re purchasing lots of new books. “It’s close to $3,000 I’d like to spend this year on new books for the library.”

Aparicio pointed out that the school will be purchasing “a lot more” books than it’s removing.

Jamison estimates that perhaps one in 10 books weeded from the cataloged fiction and nonfiction will be recycled. In the reference section, more of those will be recycled, because their information is too outdated to be of much value.

“Students are our first priority,” Jamison said. “Any book we can’t place with students, we’ll send to thrift stores. The ones thrift stores won’t take will be recycled.”

Malan said she’s not calling anyone a liar, but she does hope that giving away the books was always the plan. And upon hearing the district’s explanation, Malan said: “That right there makes me feel good.”

Smith can’t help but wonder why concerned book lovers would go to the media first, rather than contact the principal, the librarians or the superintendent directly.

“I don’t want to question somebody’s motive,” he said, but it might have been calculated to make the district look bad. “Next thing I know I’ve got a toothbrush moustache, and I’m burning books in the backyard.”

Contact reporter Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.

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