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Find more Weeding Tips
Let’s continue our look at weeding your collection with the Dewey 300s. This is a tricky section, due to the sheer spread of topics—politics, sociology, crime, education, and folklore are all found here. The best bet is to dice up the 300s into manageable sections rather than try to look at it as a whole. Some areas can stay relatively unchanged, while others need a strict schedule of replacement for timeliness. Some of the most controversial topics are found in the 300s, so a careful evaluation of current, balanced topics is a must.
300 Social Sciences, Sociology & Anthropology One of the things I’ve noticed when weeding various collections is that the 300s— particularly 300–309—end up with books dropped here and there, depending on when they were acquired and who was cataloging. The 305 and 306 areas seem to be particularly tricky, thanks to the way they break down—Men and Women, Women, Sexual Relations, and Marriage and Family are each at different classifications between 305 and 306, and in some libraries, it can mean the items are multiple shelves away from each other. My standard advice here is to take the opportunity, while weeding, to reclassify items as needed. Go with what makes sense for the size and scope of your collection, and remember that what you’re aiming for here is to get the book in the hands of the patron, whether or not that follows a strict interpretation of classification rules.
In general, books on society and culture should be evaluated every three years or so, with an eye toward current subjects and amount of use.
Almanacs and other statistics need frequent weeding—keep only the current volume and one previous edition. Since current census information is available online, you can feel comfortable weeding print copies unless you see an actual need for them at your particular institution.
320 Political Science
Unless your library specializes in political history, weed out any information that is no longer relevant to current political campaigns. For books on current political topics, weed within three years of copyright date. Here’s another chance to reorganize your collection: Do you have similar items in the 900s? You also need to keep an eye out for bias in this section—it can be difficult for selectors to stay on top of point-counterpoint titles, and we’re only human—everyone leans toward one side or the other. You may not ever get to a place of equal balance, but do try to keep opposing sides in mind.
General guides to the political process or the electoral system may be kept longer and are judged more on the basis of use. Books on civil rights remain popular with students and general readers, so weed and replace based on usage and condition.
Immigration and citizenship guides are also found here, but make sure you are not duplicating what you might have in an ESL or ELL collection. Update study guides for citizenship tests as new editions become available—you should have fresh items published within the last three years. The U.S. citizenship test went through a major overhaul in 2008, so you absolutely need to weed anything published prior to that year.
330 Economics Your basic books on personal finance should be updated frequently and weeded based on usage and condition. Real estate and money management are two topics that quickly become dated, so a constant turnover of items is to be expected. Books on careers and job hunting also need frequent weeding and replacement with updated items.
Tax books seem to be something that librarians don’t want to get rid of, and I can’t quite understand why. Yes, it’s true that individuals should keep tax returns for seven years, but trust me, if your patron is still dealing with their taxes from 2005, they are not likely coming to the library for information, they’re consulting a tax attorney! In my opinion, there is no need for most public libraries to keep older tax guides, just keep the current guide and previous two years’ editions, maximum. Larger institutions may wish to keep guides going back seven years.
Classic titles in the field of economics can be kept or replaced as usage warrants.
340 Law Law books actually are not as hard as they seem—replace personal law books, guides, and reproducible forms as new editions come out, which is likely on an annual or biannual basis. Do not keep outdated editions. Look at your circulation figures to determine relevant topics for your community—divorce, real estate, wills. It’s not a bad idea to keep duplicate items of basic law guides, particularly the compilations of reproducible forms, in your reference section.
Code books specific to your area belong in the reference section, but check to see what is currently available online. It’s highly unlikely you will need to be a source of historical code information, so do not keep outdated editions.
General guides on finding an attorney or the basics of the legal system can be kept based on usage and appearance, as well as books that examine the history of major legal cases. LSAT study guides for law school should not be kept longer than three years—the test was last revised in 2007, so you should absolutely weed any items before that date.
350 Public Administration & Military Science Most of what you find here can be weeded on a five-year basis, with the exception of civil service or military entrance test guides, which should be updated every three years.
360 Social ServicesThis broad section is where it’s easy to get bogged down. In the 360s, it’s most comfortable to weed in bite-size areas. Hot topics, such as addictions, end-of-life issues, environmental issues, and social problems, should be weeded on currency (no more than two to five years old, max) as well as usage. Books that focus on disabilities or dealing with major illnesses need to be scrutinized for outdated terminology and treatment options. Once again, this is the time to check against what you also have in the 600s. Titles by cancer survivors are often found at 362 as well as 616 (and possibly in with your biographies)—is that really helpful for your readers?
True crime, which tends to be popular, should be weeded on appearance and as usage wanes. Replace popular and classic works. Forensic-science titles should be weeded as techniques are updated and interest changes.
370 Education College guides and entrance-exam books should be weeded and replaced as often as possible, as usage warrants. A quick online search will tell you when major tests were last updated.
Books on the theory and practice of education should be weeded every 7 to 10 years, and here’s a good opportunity to collaborate with your local school administration and teachers—they might know best what is relevant and important.380 Commerce, Communications & Transportation Quick check: Where are your books on railroads? In this section or at 625? Let’s hope not both. Another chance to reorganize your collection lies in the narrow 380s. Many titles here will also be found scattered elsewhere—if you have a consortial catalog, it might be interesting to see where other libraries put some of these titles. In general, this is not an area where things change rapidly (with the exception of communications) so it’s safe to weed on a five-year rotation, with your focus on usage.
390 Customs, Etiquette & Folklore
Wedding-planning and holiday-celebration books can be weeded based on use and condition and frequent replacement should occur as trends change. Weed out celebrity books as popularity wanes.
Etiquette books are classic and can be weeded based on use and condition. Do keep on top of new editions.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Luckily, weeding the 400s and 500s is so easy that they will appear together in the next installment of “Weeding Tips.”
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