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On the first Friday in November, Hart Middle School Principal Willie Bennett Jr. pulled dozens of students out of class for an important assignment: He needed them to cart away piles of books and toss them in the Dumpster.

From 9 to 11:30 a.m., these students set about gutting the old stock from the newly renovated library. The books had been piled high in a spare room. Katherine Buchholz, a Hart teacher, says many of the discarded books were either brand-new or still in good shape, including works by Shakespeare and a huge section devoted to African-American history. “It was so bad that children were rescuing and hiding books in their rooms because they thought they should be in the library,” she says. Now, Buchholz adds, the new library doesn’t have enough books: “It’s nothing. None of it is research-worthy.”

Indeed, the library’s shelves are far from full. Bennett says community groups, parents, teachers, and students had ample time to save whatever books they wanted and that the books that ended up in the trash were too old to go in the new library, which is named after Rosa Parks. He doesn’t understand why the book dumping caused such a stir. “This was for the students,” he says. “The library is for the students.”