June 26, 2017 rss
header twitter link facebook link home link
View Resource Guide and Job Postings

Departments
Book It Photo

BookIt

Library of Michigan ‘Goes GM’

by Bill Castanier
July 18, 2011

“Going once, going twice, gone to the man with the white Mac.”

Well, there won’t be an auctioneer’s gavel, but the Library of Michigan is in the process of disposing of more than 75,000 books from its collections. The books are being auctioned at MiBid Internet Auction, the state’s online auction site for surplus materials and equipment.

Rare book dealers who follow these things believe that the sale is the largest number of books to be sold at one time in Michigan. The sale includes what is called the “Dewey” collection and another estimated 7,500 books deemed superfluous and culled from Library collections.

But before buyers get too excited, the state’s chief librarian, Nancy Robertson, wants to caution buyers that rare books and books that augment the “Michigan collection” were removed prior to the sale.

The sale began a little over three weeks ago when the first lots of several thousand books pertaining to philosophy and psychology were sold. There you could find books by and on Nietzsche, Niebuhr and the like. The sale only attracted a couple bidders, who walked off with the books for a few hundred dollars for each of the three lots.

Robertson wants to remind people, however, that if the books weren’t being sold at auction, the Library would have to pay for disposal, which is costly. As an example, for just one lot of philosophy books it would have taken more than 50 boxes that would have had to be filled and moved. Books sold at auction must be removed by the buyers.

To help understand why the collection is being sold, you have to travel back in time to the 1880s, when the Library began to obtain the books. During that period the Library of Michigan collected broadly and then circulated books across the state, especially to rural areas where there were no libraries. The Library served as a sort of backstop for knowledge, even packing wooden boxes of books that were sent across the state to be loaned. Called the Traveling Library, a collection of books was available on request to citizens (typically 25 or more).

A collection of 50 books organized in oak cases was sent to groups such as the Grange and women’s clubs. According to an article in Michigan History Magazine, the books were roughly 20 percent fiction and 80 percent books on religion, science, history, biography and the classics. In addition, some groups requested specific topics such as French literature or Shakespeare.

For convenience, shelving and retrieval, librarians used what was called the Dewey Decimal System to organize the books on shelves. The system called for books to be arranged or sorted by 10 classes, then 10 divisions and then 10 sections within the divisions, for a total of 1,000 sections.

When Melvil Dewey invented the classification method in 1876, it was considered the body of all knowledge at the time. In the early 1980s, the Library of Michigan moved to the Library of Congress Classification system, starting a new collection from scratch. And since the original Dewey collection was never integrated into the new classification system, it became a virtual orphan.

So why are the books being sold? Robertson said the Library of Michigan is refocusing its mission due both to budget cuts and change in philosophy. She said the Library, which was formally established in 1828, nine years before statehood, will now focus on the Michigan collection and books that relate to public policy.

However, Robertson feels like most librarians do about the collection: “I really love that collection.”

But she compared the Library to GM sloughing off unpopular brands by saying, “They are not making Pontiacs [anymore]. We need to be more innovative and adventurous.”

Of course, not all librarians are happy about this sale. For many it is symbolic and sentimental, representing an end of an era, akin to throwing out those high school keepsakes. It also represents to many librarians an assault on the essence of the library system, especially when it is happening at the state’s top library.

One librarian told me, “We buy books, we don’t sell them.”

Not to be trite, but libraries have a long history and tradition. It’s thought that the first library was started more than 2,200 years ago in Alexandria, and that at one time the Alexandria library held more than 700,000 volumes. Invaders would often sack libraries and carry home books as booty.

Today, libraries across the state still have a booty problem — there simply is not enough of it. Recently, the Detroit Library, facing a shortfall of $4 million in tax revenue, laid off more than 80 workers. Libraries, which for the most part are funded by local millages and either reside within city governments or school districts, are grimly facing declining tax revenue.

Libraries in cities such as Troy are set to close and are facing do-or-die millage elections. The Library of Michigan faced similar prospects. Beginning in the Granholm era and fueled by the explosion of online search engines, which seemed to give us access to every piece of information available, the administration and the legislature circulated proposals to severely cut back the Library of Michigan, including packing up and moving the state’s premier genealogy collection.

That collection was ultimately saved, to the delight of thousand of “genies” who fought hard to preserve the collection. However, that collection will no longer be expanded by purchases or gifts.

Another collection, of federal documents, also will be allowed to lapse. In addition, the Library budget was cut more than $1 million, resulting in layoffs and the end of a system that included circulating books to other libraries across the state. Now, only the legislature and state employees are allowed to check out Library of Michigan books. At one time the Library employed more than 130. It is currently staffed with just over 30 workers.

Caught in the middle of all this was the Dewey collection, which in the last several decades has seen little or no use.

A visit to the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan, where the Dewey collection is currently housed, finds a stark collection of books neatly shelved in 59 rows. It is eerily quiet even for a library, and often a security guard is the only other person walking this portion of the floor.

Walking up and down the rows, you are presented with books on every conceivable subject, albeit some a little esoteric (Who Put the Bomb in Father Murphy’s Chowder?). And as we say goodbye to America’s space program, a veritable history of the nation’s rocket program sits on a shelf, residing with books on trains and boats and planes.

Maybe no one has written a song to the Dewey system, but one of the state’s most honored poets and authors, Thomas Lynch of Milford, has written a poetic ode to libraries. Michigan’s literary undertaker (Lynch is a mortician) said that libraries are the literary equivalent of cemeteries.

“Libraries are among our most important places — they host our best game,” he said, explaining how all authors want the best book they published in a library. “It outlives them,” he said.

He also likened libraries to a Methodist Church social, where “everyone brings their best dish to pass.”

Lynch is just one of many authors who have a love affair with libraries. Book author and Michigan Court of Appeals Judge William C. Whitbeck always tells audiences at book events, “The best gift my mother ever gave me was a library card.”

In bygone days it wasn’t unusual to see library patrons spending hours browsing. Now patrons go online to browse and reserve books. All very efficient, but that’s part of the reason the Dewey collection has been deemed superfluous and is being auctioned off.

Before being set for auction, state librarians culled the collection for rare books and books that would augment the genealogy collection and the Michigan collection. For example, books on the Civil War or books by or about Hemingway were removed prior to sale.

In addition, the collection was opened to all public libraries and university and college libraries across the state with the offer to take what they could use. Only a few boxes were hauled away. Even after the sale, the Library will still hold an estimated 1.4 million titles. The Michigan collection will hold more than 78,000 titles.

Even though the collections were culled it doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems among the stacks. Nestled among obscure tracts, one is likely to find some exquisite histories of early 1800s expeditions to Africa or South America, along with very nice poetry, arts and architecture sections.

Programs like Antique Road Show have us all hoping there is a priceless collectible among the stacks. It’s not likely there’s the Gutenberg equivalent, but if there is, it’s certainly not hidden. Complete lists and details of each book are online, which makes the auction fair to everyone, according to Don Todaro, deputy state librarian overseeing the sale.

Ray Walsh, owner of Curious Book Shop and Archives Book Shop in East Lansing, has more than 40 years experience in the rare book business, which has made him conservative in his appraisal of books. He says there may be some finds in the sales, but he cautioned that you are buying the entire lot and are responsible for packing, moving and disposal.

He also pointed out that all of the books have library Dewey numbers imprinted on their spine, a large percentage have been rebound, library stickers are on the inside of each book and many were damaged during a fire and show watermarks. (In 1951 a fire swept through the State Office Building, destroying 20,000 books and damaging another 30,000.) All these conditions seriously drop the resale value of the books, according to Walsh.

“It certainly is an eclectic mixture of material and certainly one of the largest collections ever sold in Michigan,” Walsh said.

He said the sheer number of books makes it a challenge for a book dealer. “There are books of interest, but I really don’t need a thousand religion books.”

In addition, the large lots make the purchase beyond most people’s means, he said.

According to Todaro, the auction will run through the fall, and new lots of books, broken down by Dewey classification system, will be posted about every eight days. The current auction ends July 20 and winning bidders must have paid for the books and removed them by July 29. Also, anyone wanting to inspect the books must call Todaro at 517.373.2583 to make an appointment.

Walsh said the books might be a good opportunity for an online seller. He estimates that a possible 10 out of 100 books might be able to be sold online or in a bookstore, with the rest making their way to resale shops.

That’s the good news. Most of the books will likely find their way back into circulation at used book stores, in private collections or end up at resale shops.

Winning bidders will be given stickers for the books they buy stating the books are…withdrawn from circulation.

Bill Castanier, a retired state government administrator and Michigan State University advertising graduate, writes a weekly literary column for Lansing City Pulse and manages the blog mittenlit.com, a daily look at Michigan literature and authors. He also is a member of the Michigan Notable Book selection committee and the board of MSU Press.

July 18, 2011 · Filed under Bookit Tags: , ,

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stephanie Whitbeck // Jul 19, 2011 at 6:52 am

    No one should ever try to keep a secret about Michigan books from Bill Castanier.

  • 2 Michele Strasz // Jul 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Libraries closing, selling books, laying off staff. Borders closing, selling books, laying off staff.
    Schools closing, cannot buy books, laying off staff.
    70% of Michigan 3rd graders cannot read at grade level.
    Any one see a pattern here? Anyone care?

  • 3 مجله اینترنتی // Mar 6, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    930517 488806An attention-grabbing dialogue is value comment. I

  • 4 microfit solar ontario // Mar 7, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    33057 765964Constructive criticism is typically looked upon as becoming politically incorrect. 897548

  • 5 Check It Out Here // Mar 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

    357175 935883This write-up is extremely appealing to thinking individuals like me. It

  • 6 how to make my own website // Mar 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

    964352 816889I discovered your weblog web site on google and check several of your early posts. Continue to maintain up the really excellent operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading a lot more from you later on!

  • 7 iphone screen protector // Mar 8, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    975030 167947Most appropriate the human race messages function to show your and present exclusive chance with particular couple. Beginer appear system in advance of raucous men and women will most likely always be aware most with the golden value off presentation, which is actually a person

  • 8 online slots games // Mar 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

    380636 785687Hi, have you ever before asked yourself to write about Nintendo or PSP? 428793

  • 9 canada slots online // Mar 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    739319 854600Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I give credit and sources back to your internet site? My weblog is inside the exact very same location of interest as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from some with the data you give here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks! 561305

  • 10 car shipping in arlington va // Mar 10, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    82501 824455Hey! I basically wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the very good data you

  • 11 SafePro // Mar 11, 2014 at 1:58 am

    916581 357037Aw, this was a truly nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make an outstanding article

  • 12 hidemyass pro // Mar 12, 2014 at 12:28 am

    XaordMH February 6, 2014 at 6:18 am

  • 13 turbulence training workout plan // Mar 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

    357025 253962Great day! This post could not be written any much better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing! 352211

  • 14 photographer in az // Mar 12, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    131587 272204Hello. Cool write-up. There

  • 15 photographer mesa az // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    118177 189777Remarkable weblog layout here. Was it hard creating a good seeking internet site like this? 102873

  • 16 blogging // Mar 13, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    725096 293045Excellent aid from this weblog! Thanks alot for the details I required 858147

  • 17 Are there lenticular waterjet printers? // Mar 13, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    78338 415545Sweet internet site , super pattern , rattling clean and use friendly . 538135

  • 18 Read This // Mar 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for your article. I would also like to say this that the very first thing you will need to perform is determine if you really need fixing credit. To do that you must get your hands on a replica of your credit file. That should never be difficult, ever since the government makes it necessary that you are allowed to have one absolutely free copy of your own credit report annually. You just have to consult the right men and women. You can either find out from the website for the Federal Trade Commission and also contact one of the leading credit agencies instantly.

  • 19 cheats get diamonds // Mar 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Thank you for some other informative site. Where else could I am getting that kind of info written in such an ideal means? I’ve a mission that I’m simply now operating on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

  • 20 click to find out more // Mar 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    232991 13850my grandmother is always into herbal stuffs and she always say that ayurvedic medicines are the best stuff 191684

  • 21 orlandovacationstore // Mar 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    481246 361207What platform and theme are you using if I may ask? Where can I buy them? x 31591

  • 22 centenniel global technology solar panels // Mar 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    971168 322758Terrific paintings! That could be the type of data that are meant to be shared about the net. Shame on the seek for no longer positioning this publish higher! Come on more than and consult with my internet site . Thank you =) 950494

  • 23 official page // Mar 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    503504 831898Wow Da weiss man, wo es hingehen muss Viele Gr

  • 24 tips on universal studios vacation packages // Mar 14, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    550903 395131Some truly nice and utilitarian information on this web site , likewise I think the design and style holds fantastic features. 997398

  • 25 cell screen protector // Mar 15, 2014 at 1:57 am

    327168 252154Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting info . 458790

  • 26 iphone 5 privacy screen protector review // Mar 15, 2014 at 3:06 am

    697736 434222This constantly amazes me exactly how blog owners for example yourself can find the time and also the commitment to keep on composing fantastic blog posts. Your site isexcellent and one of my own ought to read blogs. I simply want to thank you. 168016

  • 27 meet your sweet // Mar 15, 2014 at 5:05 am

    We notice on serving to bloggers and on the net reviewers. If your self comprise a content you would including toward percentage with our around the world viewers of reviewers and charity function organizers, please speak to us more than marketing and advertising at “productsforreview .com”. We can showcase your merchandise in the direction of the suitable readers in direction of help on your own purchase opinions and publicity online!

  • 28 click here // Mar 15, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Just about every every day e mail of our totally free product study chances publication goes out worldwide in direction of us citizens wanting for free publicity and materials evaluations for their solutions on-line. Such involve materials promoters, marketers, public kinfolk or exposure professionals, and previously ideally you, too!

  • 29 Best Child Custody Attorney in Williamsburg // Mar 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

    585078 884040I got what you intend, saved to fav, very nice website . 240415

  • 30 Jewel Nuccitelli // Mar 15, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is awesome, nice written and come with almost all vital infos. I¡¯d like to look more posts like this .

  • 31 Used Cars in Baltimore // Mar 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    261982 928534Your blog has the same post as an additional author but i like your much better.~:;

  • 32 qdFB0RTyZN qdFB0RTyZN // Mar 16, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Souls in the Waves

    Good Morning, I just stopped in to visit your site and imagined I would say I loved myself.

  • 33 Iola Carley // Mar 17, 2014 at 8:08 am

    hello there and thank you for your information ¨C I have definitely picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise several technical points using this web site, since I experienced to reload the website lots of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  • 34 build a website // Mar 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    64078 316382Thrilled you desire sensible business online guidelines keep wearing starting tools suitable for the particular web-based business. cash 416135

  • 35 make a website // Mar 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    300883 644967IE nonetheless is the market chief and a huge element of people will pass over your excellent writing because of this problem. 56364


Advertisment

Advertisment


Advertisment

Advertisment


© 2007-2011 DomeMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Site design by Kimberly Hopkins, khopdesign, llc.