Someone Is Trying to Save You From Awful Books at the Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library –The Boston Globe / Bill Greene

February is Library Lovers’ Month, a time of year when you would expect bookworms to cuddle up in warmly lit bookstack nooks and whisper (literally whisper, this is the library we’re talking about) sweet nothings into the pages of their beloved novels.

But those who visit the Boston Public Library’s “BiblioCommons’’ portal, which hosts user-generated reviews and reading lists by Boston Public Library members, might spot someone who appears to be a “hater’’ amongst all of the lovers.

A user who goes by the name “noluckboston,’’ has used BiblioCommons to tag 74 books in the Boston Public Library system as “awful library book.’’ The tag “awful library book’’ is featured amongst some more typical categories to classify books, such as “suspense,’’ “romance,’’ and “fiction,’’ in the site’s “recent tags’’ box.

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Noluckboston, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, isn’t using his or her own judgment to be the arbiter of taste for the Boston Public Library’s collection. Instead, he’s tagging books based off the “Awful Library Books’’ blog, which two public librarians in Michigan have been running since 2009.

Yes, you read that right. Two librarians run a blog that labels books as “awful.’’ They started it to make light of the “weeding’’ process, which is a task they argue isn’t just for gardeners, but for every responsible librarian. According to the librarians, weeding out old, irrelevant books is important to maintaining a usable collection, and to stay relevant to the library’s mission.

A glimpse at the “awful library book’’ tag —Screenshot of Boston Public Library BiblioCommons

That means, to make space for new books, the library has to get rid of old ones. And, as the blog shows, there’s no shortage of “awful’’ books to weed out. Every day, the librarians feature a book that they find “amusing and/or questionable for libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection.’’ Noluckboston, it seems, occasionally tags these books on the Boston Public Library site and includes a link to the blog post to show that the Boston Public Library is among the many libraries nationwide that holds some bad books.

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Just how awful are these awful books? It depends on what you’re interested in. Cats and Their Women, a collection of photographs and captions featuring, you guessed it, ladies and kitties, is among one of the more odd, but innocent selections. Others, such as Clown Ministry, are undeniably strange, while The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook is just gross.

Scot Colford, online and web services manager for the Boston Public Library, is well aware of both the “awful library books’’ tag and blog. “I think every librarian with a sense of humor knows about that blog,’’ he told Boston.com.

And, he isn’t bothered that the “awful’’ tag comes up on the site. The Boston Public Library continuously weeds its collection to try to keep irrelevant books off the shelves. And, because the Central Library in Copley Square has been undergoing renovation, with the second floor set to open this Saturday, many of these books have been in storage.

The Boston Public Library is more likely to keep quirky books because it’s a research library, which means it makes a point to “acquire, make available, preserve, and service significant research materials in all fields of knowledge.’’

Colford told Boston.com this means, despite what people might think about the content of these books, the library will keep Why Cats Paint, and Touch of the Clown, in case they’re needed for research purposes. They don’t, however, take up valuable shelf space, but are instead shipped to storage off-site or exiled on-site in closed-to-the-public stacks, which Colford described as “cool but a little creepy.’’

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So, though it seems like noluckboston is hating on the library, he’s really trying to help by pointing out books to make the collection seem more relevant. Luckily, Boston Public Library users can have the best of both worlds — a relevant collection on the shelves and special access to Hangin’ With Hilary Duff and Potatoes for all of their “research’’ needs.

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