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if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.width = requestedWidth + “px”; document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.margin = “0px 0px 10px 10px”; with the zeal of a soul-saver, Robert Wright has delved into garbage bins, filled up his minivan and made space in his Willow Glen basement, rescuing books once destined for oblivion.

This week, Wright, 57, rumpled in sweatpants and a T-shirt, rushed to Morrill Middle School after the Berryessa school board had declared 686 library books surplus. The teacher browsed through volumes laid out on tables. He filled boxes until the custodian turned out the lights and chased him out. He returned Friday morning, his triumph mixed with amazement and distress.

” Why get rid of ‘The Yearling’? Or ‘Leaves of Grass’! How could anybody say there just isn’t room for ‘Leaves of Grass’?” he asked. “If they were throwing out ‘Captain Underpants’ I’d understand, but not ‘Leaves of Grass!’ “

School libraries periodically cull worn, obsolete and sometimes underused books from their collection. In Berryessa, they’re pulled from shelves and stamped: “Material is inaccurate. Does not meet district standards. Stereotypes gender or culture.”

Sometimes, media technician Jeanne Palmer said, the library has five or six copies of a books – as was the case with “The Witch of Blackbird Pond.” Other books, like Anne Bronte’s “Agnes Grey,” she said, “The kids will never read.” She judges that in part by the dust accumulated on top.

Besides Wright, summer school teachers, students and later parents who come in when school resumes in August go through the discards. “I


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don’t feel bad about them because they will go to good homes,” Palmer said, noting that the Morrill library still has thousands of books.

Still, Wright doesn’t understand. In the past he’s found school books in trash cans. He glances at the spacious library with empty shelves and counters of computers, and laments that the room that once held many more shelves of books now is labeled “the media center.”

A few years ago he rescued a hardback copy of “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and read it to his son, then 11. They ended up going to the bookstore to buy the rest of classic “Narnia” series.

“I know that an instruction book on how to use the slide rule would be obsolete, but novels by C.S. Lewis?” he asked.

Wright acknowledged that middle-school kids won’t pick up a book with an unattractive or worn cover, an odd title or outdated contents. But he finds even some of those useful. “Homemaking for Teenagers,” with instructions to girls on how to make a husband happy, for instance, is a historical artifact and can spark discussions about stereotypes, he said.

Many of the books he salvages books end up in his English classroom at Morrill. When a student neglects to bring something for free reading time, Wright may hand him a rescued book like Paul Zindel’s “The Pigman,” about two high school kids who befriend a lonely man.

“After I force them to read the first five pages, they’re hooked. I have to tear it from their hands,” Wright said.

He also collects books for a colleague and recently hauled 10 boxes of books to the librarian of another school.

Wright estimates he spends from $150 to $200 a month on books. “I used to have stock in Amazon, but sold it. That was a mistake,” he said.

Not a mistake, he said, is keeping his chalkboard instead of getting a white board, and secreting away old textbooks to teach stories by James Thurber, Richard Wright and Shirley Jackson. At home he’s got bookcases, a steamer trunk in the basement, and soon plastic bins for his crawl space, all filled with books.

He said his wife, Lupe Diaz, an elementary teacher and fellow book lover, understands his passion. “Otherwise it would be grounds for divorce,” Wright said.

In fact, on Friday, while Wright was selecting books at Morrill, Diaz was at a discount-book sale picking up a copy of Robert Bly’s “Iron John” for her husband. “I’ve got it at home, but I can’t find it,” Wright said – one disadvantage to having so many unindexed tomes.

Wright says his sentimentality covers only books, and doesn’t extend to, say, cars or clothes.

It’s no surprise that the man who thinks of books as “my old friends” grew up surrounded by them and raised by parents who loved to read. His father was a professor of education at San Jose State. His mother, now 92, still frequents San Jose libraries weekly, he said.

On Friday, he was eager to get home and delve into his “finds” – as soon as he finished going through the volumes. “Here,” he said, his eyes lighting up. ” ‘How to Make the World a Better Place.’ We need more books like that!”