Dustbin of Literary History


Libraries in Fairfax County are consigning Charlotte Bronte, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust and Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the dustbin of literary history. At the bidding of a new cataloging program, the libraries are tossing books that haven't been checked out in more than two years to make room for in-demand books.

National Review's John Miller, writing in the Wall Street Journal, asks:

What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment?

If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There's a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

Miller suggests that libraries stop stocking according to what their "customers" want (John Grisham, etc.), since books are cheap and easy to get elsewhere in the era of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Instead, they "should seek to shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends."