Community questions boxes of abandoned books


Photo by Claudia Garcia

Members of the community may have noticed large boxes of books stored at the bottom floor of Laurie Auditorium. These books were once part of the Coates Library collection, but have been discarded, as their subjects are either no longer being taught or their research is outdated.

“This library is designed to specifically support the courses that are being taught at Trinity,” said Beatrice Caraway, head of collection strategies and resource sharing at Coates Library. “What we want to do is create a collection that has the most important classic works that support the curriculum, plus the current scholarship.”

Coates Library cannot accumulate as many books over time as larger libraries can, since doing so would require expensive remodeling and off-site storage. Library employees must take unused books off the shelves, which results in the placement of these large book boxes inside of Laurie Auditorium.

“That’s our goal: to keep a really focused collection that supports the courses that you’re taking today,” Caraway said. “The result of all of that is that we have to review the collection and see which books haven’t been checked out in 12 or 15 years.”

Caraway ensures that, in addition to outdated research, heavily damaged volumes also get removed from the collection. Students and professors, however, are allowed to keep certain books if they put in a request ahead of time.

“That constant analysis of what’s in the collection leads us to make decisions to pull things out of the collection, so that what’s left is useful to you,” Caraway said.

During New Student Orientation this year, Caraway lead students in an exercise to help them learn more about the literature collections at Coates Library.

“We had two or three trucks of books that had been selected and we scanned the spines,” Caraway said. “Then, when we saw a phrase on a spine that they thought looked like it might be part of a good poem or give them a theme for a poem, they’d pull that out and then look for other ones or go back to that one.”

That poetry exercise wasn’t the first one in which students used old books. Last April, students in Jennifer Browne’s poetry writing class participated in a found poem exercise, in which they tore out pages from old library books and crossed out different words in order to create brand new poems.

“I felt kind of bad ripping pages out of books, but I found it fun to hunt and peck for words that sort of go together, but at the same time don’t,” said Sarah Wysocki, a sophomore human communication major.

Wysocki and the other members of the poetry writing class participated in this project last April, which marked the twentieth anniversary of National Poetry Month. They hung up their creations across Coates Library to celebrate.

“It was interesting to see how everyone took a poem and branched off from what they thought of it,” Wysocki said. “It was fun to use that exercise as a template for our creative juices to flow.”

Some students were surprised when they found out how such large collections of books had been removed from the library and were just sitting in boxes.

“I remember being just a bit thrown off by the fact that we had novels in the library that could even be referred to as scrap,” said Yesenia Caballero, a sophomore English and theatre major. “Knowing that there were boxes of books just collecting dust and being treated as scrap paper was a little bit heartbreaking.”

Caballero struggled at poetry writing during high school, but enjoyed Browne’s class and was grateful for the opportunity to work on such distinct creative projects.

“All it took was one class with Professor Browne to completely change my opinion of poetry writing,” Caballero said. “She really treats writing as the art it is and as a result she works with everyone at their individual levels of skill and style and helps them develop. By the end of the semester, it was clear who wrote what because we had all really come into our own and found a style for ourselves.”

Trinity faculty and staff strongly encourage students to use the library often, as it contains abundant resources that are key to reaching a higher academic and creative potential in the most updated collection of resources as possible. A current list of all available books can be accessed by visiting the Coates website.