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I went to the Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library over the weekend. According to the online catalogue, it was the only branch of the D.C. Public Library with a copy, actually three, of a book I’d been trying to get my hands on (the only historical account of amphetamine use in the U.S., if you must know).

I got to the library, hunted in the stacks and didn’t find my book. So I marched over to the librarian. She looked it up on her version of the catalog and scoffed. “Oh, this book is gone,” she said. “It’s old.”

The book hadn’t been reported missing or discarded, mind you. It was just really old—-1975—-and the library couldn’t be expected to hold onto old books. “We’re not an archive,” she said.

I can understand the necessity of thinning the stock every once in a while. A lot of crap gets published. And a lot of that crap gets quickly outdated. But this was a useful, semi-academic text. And no one has written anything like it since, so throwing it away actually blots out a speedy little chunk of history. And why, oh why, is it still in the catalog?!