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Where do law library books go to die?

November 09, 2012

By Joseph F. Parsio, Head of Access Services

“Nothing disappears without a trace.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
What happens to old library books? Sometimes withdrawn library books can fill in gaps at another library, but often law libraries withdraw titles that have become available online. Some books go to publishers engaged in digitization projects. Some books simply get recycled. But more and more people are “re-using” rather than “re-cycling.”
According to Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, in Don’t Dumpster That Book! a Life as Art Awaits It, law libraries in the Netherlands have been creating art and sculptures from their discarded books. In the U.S., 1201 discarded Federal Reporters have been transformed into the interactive piece In Memoriam, shown below.
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So, where has Biddle sent some of its withdrawn volumes? Some will appear in the Philadelphia production of David Mamet’s play, RACE. The play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on November 16, 2009.
If you would like to see Biddle’s re-used volumes, they will be at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Ave., Fridays and Saturdays, November 9th thru 24th at 8PM. Tickets are $15 at the door. Of course you can still see plenty of other books in Biddle’s stacks for free. 

Race by David Mamet.JPG