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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Weeding Tips
Weeding. The very word often strikes terror in a librarian’s heart. I find no one is ambivalent about weeding—people either love it or loathe it. I fall into the love-it camp. I once imagined my perfect career would be traveling from library to library across the nation, weeding collections. However, most librarians dread the task. It can be hard to part with books that were carefully selected and paid for with tax dollars. Some librarians feel that it is impossible to imagine that a particular book no longer has any worth.
Let’s start at the beginning: Why is it important that libraries weed?
Ideally, weeding is an ongoing process. Weeding throughout the year reduces the number of materials withdrawn at one time and keeps your community happy—because the shelves look fresh, and patrons will not see a large number of books leaving the building at one given time. If you haven’t made an effort to weed continually, or even if you have, oftentimes a weeding project is needed. Specifically, you know you need a “deep weed” when shelf space becomes impossible to navigate or patrons complain about the condition of materials or a lack of current information.
Have a solid collection-development policy in place. This not only gives you backup, highlighting your reasons and your time line, but it gives your staff instruction. The CREW Method, created by Belinda Boon and Joseph P. Segal, offers six classic general guidelines under the acronym MUSTIE (for more information, see https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/pubs/crew/index.html.):
Don’t forget that the reports available from your cataloging system are invaluable for weeding. You can sort them by all kinds of criteria, including last checkout date, age of item, number of checkouts. And it may sound trite, but don’t be afraid to weed on looks alone. I’ve been in too many libraries where a good one-third of the collection could be replaced just based on rips, smells, and stains alone. Who wants to check out a nasty book?
What if you just aren’t sure about a particular title? Ask yourself the following questions: Would I be embarrassed if the library didn’t own it? If I put this on display, would it go out? Does the book fit the needs of my community? Does it have local interest? Is the author still living and writing?
There’s an excuse for everything, and here are some rebuttals to the things that may be keeping you from weeding:
Lastly, what about public perception? It’s important to keep library staff informed so they can alleviate any patron anxieties. If staff is not on board with weeding, your public will never be. Use positives instead of negatives—never complain to patrons about what bad materials you had. Always explain that you are making room for new materials, making the shelves easier to navigate, and replacing outdated information with the latest current information. Weeding isn’t always about ridding the shelves—sometimes it’s about getting fresh new copies of the exact same titles.
In the next issue of Corner Shelf, we’ll take a look at weeding specific sections of your library.
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