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Find more Weeding Tips
After slogging through the long and often unwieldy 300s, it feels good to know that the 400s and 500s are some of the easiest-to-weed parts of a collection. It helps that, in most public libraries, the 400s and 500s are also the smallest parts of the collection.
The criteria for the 400s—Language—can almost exclusively rest on use and condition. The field of languages and linguistics is stable and not particularly time sensitive. And if you have plenty of space, don’t even worry much about your usage statistics. Some items, such as dictionaries, will be more readily used in the library rather than checked out, so you can keep those—if you have room and they are in good condition—even if your checkout numbers are low. If budget allows, replace English dictionaries and grammar classics when new editions are released.
Foreign language and English as a second language (ESL) or English language learners (ELL) materials may see high circulation and, therefore, need frequent replacement. In general, you need to keep at least one current dictionary for Spanish, French, German, and whatever other languages are studied or spoken in your community. Putting them in the circulating collection makes more sense than letting them gather dust in the reference collection. This section should also have learning materials in foreign languages that reflect the interests and needs of your community.
Weeding in the 400s is really an opportunity to fine-tune your collection. It’s likely that you may have a basic set of stock dictionaries, foreign-language materials, and ESL/ELL materials here. But do you know what your community currently needs? How long ago were most of those materials acquired? Have demographics in your area changed? Take this as a chance to purchase new materials as well as replacements for standards. Items receiving heavy use, such as TOEFL guides and ESL/ELL materials, should be replaced regularly with new copies and titles to maintain currency and freshness in the collection.
The 500s—Pure Sciences—is an area where new scientific discoveries, theories, and techniques can make an outdated collection useless. The 500s contain subjects in which information is quickly dated or even proven wrong (physics, astronomy, etc.), as well as subjects in which information is nearly timeless (mathematics), so keep a careful eye on publication dates in this section, and do your homework, if necessary. Pluto is not a planet, and there’s technically no such thing as a brontosaurus. How are your books on the International Space Station? Or Mars expeditions?
Do your best to keep up-to-date in this section. Consider pulling everything five years and older for examination. Basic historical works on science, such as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, should be retained, but weeding must be aggressive in the more time-sensitive areas to ensure the availability of accurate, up-to-date information. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of this section:
Weed for condition and use but retain a collection of the basics—algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Update with revised editions.
520 Space and Astronomy
Major changes have occurred, so weed titles that include Pluto as a planet, for example. Stargazing books should be attractive and discuss relevant technology.
550 Earth Sciences
Weed books that do not reflect current theories and science on geological activities. Replace books that have outdated information on major disasters—such as the eruption of Mount St. Helens—with more current books that examine the long-term aftermath. Field guides for amateur fossil and rock hunters can be kept as physical condition and circulation allows.
You might not have thought so, but changes occur in this field as well. Circulation should not be a factor in keeping outdated dinosaur books—the popularity of this topic with students may mean that even outdated books are checked out.
570 Life Sciences
Weed and replace books on genetics, human biology, and evolution due to rapid changes in scientific practices. Weed titles on ecology that appear dated—do you still have titles from the 1970s on the shelf? Keep an eye out for books that are sensational or political in tone.
580 Botanical Sciences
Most of your botany books can stay, based on appearance. One thing to watch for would be field guides that promote edible or medicinal plants and herbs—ensure that they meet current safety guidelines.
A final note for the 500s—while it may be true that science experiments tend to be the same year after year, you need to examine some of the older books that may have outdated or unsafe material.
Don’t rest too easy—the 600s are next, and they’re a doozy.
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