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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stay or Go: Romanov Edition

Kudzu, the Mississippi weed

One of the never-ending tasks of a librarian is to "weed" the collection. That means exactly what it says: like a massive growth of kudzu, bad books are trying to take over the library. Librarians continuously cull to make sure that the best books are available for their patrons use. It's hard. I love books, and I think that each and every one of them is valuable in its own right--or at least was at one point in time. That said, no one wants to go to the library and find crumbling, moldy, mildewed books. Books that are no longer relevant (think travel guides from 30 years ago or a history of Europe that ends in 1985) aren't popular either. A website called Awful Library Books is devoted to promoting good library books and to removing the baddies from the shelf. A clever acronym has even been coined to help in the weeding process:

  • M - Misleading
  • U - Ugly
  • S - Superseded
  • T - Trivial
  • I - Irrelevant
  • E - Found Elsewhere
Let me tell you, MUSTIE has helped me out in a pinch when trying to decide if a book should stay or go.

Alexei Romanov
Last week, I watched Russian Revolution in Color, which was excellent. Later, I was browsing the shelves for books to put in a display and ran across The Escape of Alexei, Son of Tsar Nicholas II: What Happened the Night the Romanov Family Was Executed. (This is always dangerous. I also managed to pick up Rising Tide and Marooned: The Strange but True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe. I have too many books to read!) Wanting to stay on my Russian history kick, I took Alexi home and was looking forward to reading about this theory. I'd never heard a tale about the Tsar's son surviving, only Anastasia. The book wasn't a bad read, but it presupposed knowledge of tiny details of the Russian Revolution. Even my recent viewing of Russian Revolution in Color wasn't helping. And the NAMES! They're enough to make you want to run screaming from the library! (For example, Konstantin Alexeyevich Myachim also went by Vasily Vasilievich Yakovlev. That's quite an alias.)

Taking a break, I decided to do a small web search in order to update my Romanov savvy (And to take a break from the names! Yes, I struggled when I read War and Peace.) I hit Wikipedia and then moved on to some of their external links (This is one of my favorite at-home search methods.) I came across some interesting sites, like this one, and this one. Imagine my disappointment to find that the two bodies that had been missing when my book was published in 1998 had been found and identified in 2007. I don't know how I missed that news flash. My impromptu research made my interest in Alexi completely fizzle.

I'm recommending that this particular book leave our collection. I now consider it contaminated with a great big "M". (That's misleading, remember?!) It would be perfect for a library that has a special collection on Russian history or the Romanovs, but not the Mississippi Library Commission. I checked our collection (You can do that here!) and found that we don't have anything that has been published in this area in the past several years. My next step is to find an up-to-date volume that covers this time frame in history. I'm leaning towards one of these two: The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson, and the World's Greatest Royal Mystery or The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. Now, that sounds better, doesn't it?

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