Book purging – it’s sooo difficult

Day 4 of the Advent posting concerns book purging.

As many of you will know, I’ve just started a part-time job as a primary school librarian. A fantastic job, especially as the school has found the budget to resituate their school library into the old ICT room. This is a wonderful space – it’s the size of a regular classroom, has been recently redecorated, has high ceilings, massive windows and doors leading into a courtyard garden. There are plans underway to create an outdoor reading area in the warmer, drier weather, where children can sit and read amongst the plants and bird feeders. It’s truly a reading paradise for children, and they are always eager to come in and browse and just sit and read.

When I arrived one of the tasks I was given was to purge the library of its very old and battered books. With more than 8,000 books on its shelves, it was quite a task, and is still something I am trying to finish off. However, I have one huge problem.

As a bibliophile, I can’t bear the idea of throwing books out (well, recycling them). All books are precious, so having to cull them down is incredibly hard. I have got better as the weeks have progressed but I still feel a pang of guilt when I pick my next victim.

The main criteria for getting rid of a book are:

– damage to the covers that is irreparable

– ripped, stained or hugely creased pages

– outdated titles (where being up to date is vital)

– dirty books (eg stained covers or pages, grimy covers from overuse)

So far I think I have disposed of a couple hundred books. I have ordered new ones to replenish the stock so I feel a little better – it’s like cutting down a Christmas tree and planting a new one in its place for ecological purposes! The ones destined for recycling are unfortunately too damaged to be reused by others – my thoughts were that if I wouldn’t want to buy it for my house (and I buy a lot of second-hand books) then I wouldn’t pass it on to someone else. Books should be a treat, something you want to hold in your hands and admire.

We’re gradually getting there. I still need more copies of popular titles – which seem to be the Dork Diaries, Harry Potter series, Beast Quest, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, David Walliams (any of his titles!), Minecraft and picture books by Julia Donaldson, for example.

How do you purge your books at home or at work? Do you feel guilty getting rid of old stock?



    • Thanks for that! It’s a good idea with some of the more useable books. I’ve already made little wooden hearts, with pages of books glued onto them – drawings or writing, etc. The kids love looking at them and I encourage them to use them as prompts for stories. 🙂


  1. Yes, all sorts of art projects can use them. Also when I had to do this, I’d keep old non-fiction for kids’ project work – they could cut out eg animals or buildings to illustrate their work. You could make christmas decorations like I did with some favourite picture books which would other wise go into recycling: Even just cutting pictures out is useful in nursery/reception classes so ask if they’d like some inside pages? Old hardback covers can be turned into handbags.


  2. You may find that tactful filtering of well-meaning donations is a regular part of the job. As the school where I work is opening a second free school next year I have a good home for duplicates! I have found that Oxfam will gladly take collections of outdated NF for use in libraries in developing countries. And then there are the numerous Christmas Fairs (though offloading recent donations at a school event can be awkward!)

    Have you come across the Rescue Princesses set by Nosy Crow? They are aimed at the Rainbow Magic market but rather better done, I think. These, and Princess Poppy, are much sought-after by our KS1 girls.


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