Say it was a fire
The scene: A Monday morning early in the year 196 BC, in the collection development area of the Library of Alexandria. The department chief, PERSAEUS, is seated in his cubicle, where he is indexing the latest scrolls acquired from Pergamum. His assistant, a young scholar, ARISTARCHUS, is standing nearby, examining the contents of a cart.
ARISTARCHUS: Wow, I see you've put Aristophanes' "The Banqueters" and "The Babylonians" on the weeding cart here. Do we really want to get rid of those?
PERSAEUS: Have you seen how many scrolls we've got stuffed into the Drama Section? Besides, these aren't his best stuff, and they never check out anymore.
ARISTARCHUS: Sure, but, you know, this IS Aristophanes . . .
PERSAEUS: I've been given directions from the representative of King Ptolemy himself -- Money is tight and the royal treasury isn't going to support warehousing material that isn't used. We need to move in the direction of popular reading and higher use.
ARISTARCHUS: So it's numbers driven?
PERSAEUS: You got it, kid.
ARISTARCHUS (aside): Sorry, Aristophanes!
PERSAEUS: It looks like no one's asked for either of these plays in years. Besides, if we ever get someone here who really wants them, we can always get them on loan from Pergamum.
ARISTARCHUS: A buddy of mine works there. They weeded them last year.
ARISTARCHUS: So what becomes of our copies?
PERSAEUS: We have a contract with the Public Baths. They buy our discards and use them to heat the water over there. Quite a bit of energy in a standard scroll, you know.
ARISTARCHUS: Not sure I would let our patrons know that.
PERSAEUS: That's why we send the wagon in the middle of the night.
ARISTARCHUS: What if someone asks about not having these plays anymore?
PERSAEUS (winking): We could say there had been a fire . . .
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