Sunday, March 01, 2009

UPDATE: pre-1985 children's books

Yesterday was our public library's yearly sale, at which they let the public buy, at unbelievably cheap prices, library discards (most of them in great condition) and books donated by the public. Many donations are of high quality; but the fact is that the public libraries simply don't want and can't store most of their donated materials.

This was an opportunity to see if the ban on pre-1985 children's materials had already been implemented, and the answer is: sort of.

Among the library discards, a few were pre-1985, and they were available on the shelves. I picked up a lovely out-of-print Carolyn Haywood, among other nice finds. Given that there were literally thousands of children's discards, it's not surprising that nobody was able to pick through them for publication date.

There were no donated children's materials available for sale, however. In the past, about a quarter to a third of the children's books were donated items: I've gotten some of the Offspringen's best books this way. There were still plenty of donated items shelved in non-children's areas (you can tell the donated items because they have no library markings), and a well-stocked "vintage books" section: but no donated children's books. Since there were certainly hundreds of children's books donated to the public library over the course of the year--the legislation banning the sale/distribution of pre-1985 children's books is quite recent, and only went into effect in February--I can't help wondering what happened to them all. The landfill, sadly, is the most likely option; the library can't afford to store unwanted materials in the hope that Congress might reconsider this ghastly and ill-advised legislation.


Blogger mrsdarwin said...

We went down to Half-Price Books on Lamar on Saturday and saw a number of post-1985 books, several of which we bought. Maybe the HPB guys are just keeping Austin weird, but no one seemed too concerned there.

6:34 AM  
Blogger mrsdarwin said... books in the children's section, I mean.

6:35 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Pre-1985, right?

Yes, actually there was a lovely complete set of 1973 Childcraft in the discount section of the main store that I was thinking of retrieving before it was too late.

There's still a lot of confusion about used children's book sales. Ebay sellers are apparently (judging by their forums) relying on a reported exception for books classified as "vintage" and therefore not intended for children; others are pointing out that the "vintage" exception assumes a monetary value making purchase for children's use unrealistic (which would imply that a $1 "vintage" children's books would be seen as a pretextual categorization meant to evade the law).

The CPSC issued a press release saying that resellers of children's items wouldn't have to test; however it was quickly pointed out that (a) it's unclear that the CPSC has the authority to make this kind of binding interpretation of the CPSIA (and that at any rate the agency could change its interpretation of the Act at any time); and (b) the purported exemption still requires sellers not to sell items not meeting the new safety standards--they just don't have to *test* them. But 1985 is the magic date because prior to then, lead was often used in book illustrations; so if a pre-1985 book is sold and found to have impermissible lead or phthalate content, regardless of whether someone was injured, the seller is on the hook for some pretty draconian penalties.

There's so little reliable information, and so little mainstream news coverage of the CPSIA, that it's unsurprising that different sellers are taking different approaches, and some may not know about the CPSIA at all.

Which provides a convenient window for rescuing books....

6:58 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

To clarify: it's unclear that the CPSC's various "clarifications" of the law have any legal status, as none of them seem to be advisory opinions coming form the CPSC General Counsel. Many of them are conflicting, and many just fail to answer the questions being asked.

7:06 AM  
Blogger mrsdarwin said...

Doh! Yes, I was betrayed by my muddled morning brain. I meant "pre".

12:35 PM  
Blogger Darwin said...

Frankly, if I was a seller of used kid stuff, I'd take this as an opportunity to flagrantly ignore the new law and see if anyone actually came down on me. It's an idiotic regulation, and it doesn't seem like it would stand up to PR very well if pushed.

10:01 AM  

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