Souderton Area High School Purges 3,224 Library Books

“We still have a library, very much so a library,” said Superintendent Frank Gallagher.
Empty shelves now line Souderton Area High School's library. Photos courtesy of John Waldenberger.

In direct conflict with Souderton Area School District Policy 706.1, Disposal of School District Property, the Republican controlled school board directors quietly disposed of 3,224 books from the high school library in June 2023.

What used to be called the library is now referred to as the “Career and Collaboration Center,” and photos of the space show empty book shelves.

In a Right-to-Know, The Bucks County Beacon asked the school district how many books had been removed from the library in 2023, where the books went, were weeding lists ever presented for a vote at any board meetings as is required by Policy 706.1, and were any of the books removed replaced with e-editions.

School property, including books, are purchased with taxpayer dollars and the public deserves answers to questions about the removal of more than 3,000 books.

READ: Making Souderton School Board Documents Publicly Available Is Non-Negotiable, Say District Parents And Taxpayers

Policy 706.1 requires that obsolete school equipment, including books, be approved by the school board prior to its disposal.

SASD is well aware of Policy 706.1, and it is referred to in meeting minutes – at least eight times – in 2022 and 2023.

Minutes from November 17, 2022 read:

“6.11 Approve the Disposal of Excess, Obsolete, and Non-Repairable Equipment The Administration recommends approving the disposal of unusable/unrepairable items and equipment as per Policy # 706.1.


The only problem with this board activity is that no one knows what equipment was deemed to be in excess, obsolete, or non-repairable because, and as is the habit of the SASD board of directors, they do not post documents to correlate with meeting agendas on BoardDocs for the public to read.

AD 4nXcnzDs8 BUb8DNAsNUji8HDaP9dpkMC4hpfYa5NZZDojTtB0z6wpM64Y yEb VwQGDGTBdPmWqgVWVGul5 - Bucks County Beacon - Souderton Area High School Purges 3,224 Library Books

Minutes from the April 25, 2024 meeting reflect public comment that specifically asks about library books.

“Ms. Pernie spoke stating that she heard there is no longer a high school library. She heard that all of the books were removed and asked why did this happen? Mr. Keith responded that some of the library space has been repurposed. Dr. Gallagher stated that there is still a high school library, it still has books and a circulation desk. He also stated that a portion of the room has been reallocated as a student center which includes a business center to support the Pathway 360 program as well as a private space to serve student mental health needs.”

“Mr. Waldenberger stated that recent pictures of the high school library are contrary to the statements made this evening, and it appears to be empty.”

- Bucks County Beacon - Souderton Area High School Purges 3,224 Library Books

Superintendent Frank Gallagher’s response to those remarks is available in the April 25, 2024 video recording of the meeting.

“We still have a library, very much so a library,” he said. “We have looked at the library space, and it’s now a student center with part of it being a library. We have reallocated many of the titles that weren’t checked out very often into classrooms.”

LISTEN: Understanding the Nation’s Mounting Book Banning Crisis in Public Schools, with PEN America’s Sabrina Baêta

“Very old books that we would have purged anyway because [of] their condition went to the Mennonite Center where they repurposed them,” Gallagher added. “But we do have a library. We do… still have the electronic card catalog system. Students do come in and check out books. But in today’s world, much of that is also done digitally.”

It is impossible to determine which books on the weeding log were allocated to classrooms or donated.

The Beacon also asked which books were replaced with e-editions, but received no answer.

Who decided which books would be removed and who selected the charity to receive the taxpayer funded library books?

In neighboring Pennridge School District, obsolete items are handled by Public Surplus and Municibid. Although these auctions don’t reap large financial gains, at least Pennridge is recovering some of the taxpayer money that was originally spent to acquire the books and equipment.

The weeding log detailing the books that were given away is concerning for many reasons. No explanation is provided as to why any book is on the list, but many are timeless classics that benefit high school students. 

READ: Warminster Library To Unveil New Strategic Plan, with New Motto: ‘Open Doors. Open Books. Open Minds.’

Some of the titles found within the first 50 pages, a fraction of the 529 page list, include The Accident, Animal Farm, Bonfire of the Vanities, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Atlas Shrugged, War and Peace, The Winter of Our Discontent, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

No one is saying that some of the books on the weeding list shouldn’t have been removed, but some books were clearly deserving of being kept or replaced with e-editions.

Raising additional concern are the dozens of student names and identification numbers on the weeding list that seem to indicate students who checked out a book that could not be accounted for.

Information identifying students should have been redacted.

District documents produced in response to the Beacon’s Right-to-Know about library books have raised even more questions, and there is only one way to get answers from this school board. File more RTKs.

Refusing to share documents with the public that every other Pennsylvania school board provides is not only breaking the law in certain instances, it has spurred a lawsuit against the district.

Contracts, bids, requests for proposals, policies, financials and other documentation integral to the district’s functioning aren’t private or for the exclusive review by the GOP majority school board. They are non-confidential documents concerning a public school that is funded by taxpayer dollars. 

If the SASD board of directors ever hopes to secure the public’s trust and respect, there is a simple remedy that has been reiterated in public comment and news articles many times.

Be transparent.

Support progressive, independent media.

Picture of Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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