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Find more Weeding Tips
If you’re not too traumatized from weeding your fiction collection, then it’s time to move on to the 900s. The special call-out sections of the 900s are travel and biography. Other portions of the 900s should be weeded based on condition, currency, and usage.
Books on current affairs should be weeded after three to five years; some titles may be retained for historical perspective as space allows. Most of your general-history titles can be retained if they are in good shape and are circulating, but do watch for dated material—please tell me you don’t have books that refer to the Soviet Union in the present tense. This is also especially true for your geography and map sources.
For travel guides, weed after two years. Replace annually if the budget allows. An outdated travel guide is fairly useless to a traveler. Sure, people can check online, but the reason they came to your library to get that book was so that they didn’t have to print out everything from the Web! I’ll never forget the librarian who scoffed at me when I weeded Fodor’s New York City, 2000—in 2004. “It’s still useful, not that much changes in a big city like New York, all the tourist stuff is the same every year.” I simply said, “Twin Towers,” as I discarded the book.
A special shout-out goes to Corner Shelf reader Jennifer Stubbs, from the Ruidoso (NM) Public Library, who asked for a core list of travel guidebooks. Naturally, libraries will have varied collections based on patron needs and requests, but keep in mind as you are weeding and replacing that most public libraries should have the following current year guidebooks available, at a minimum:
Hawaii San Francisco/Bay AreaLos AngelesLas VegasAustinChicagoNew York CityBostonNew OrleansFlorida KeysInternational
Maintain country/regional guides to perennially popular travel destinations such as Italy, France, the UK, Israel, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. Purchase specific cities as needed.
It’s also useful to add general guides or unusual destinations, such as the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide series, books on family or budget travel, guides to national and state parks, adventure travel, Disney guidebooks, etc. Be sure to follow Brad Hooper’s twice-annual Travel Roundup feature in the September 15 and April 1 issues of Booklist for guidance on replacement titles.
For most general biographies, anything that hasn’t been checked out in 3–5 years is probably due for some inspection: is the person no longer of interest? Are there more recent books out about the person? Biographies of popular figures and celebrities can be weeded once the demand and popularity have receded, often in about a year. Benchmark titles of historical figures can be kept longer, if space allows.
If you’re basing your weeding on copyright date, my rule of thumb is that for celebrity bios, think three (maybe squeaking to four, if it’s an enduring popular person) years from publication depending on your space issues. For historical bios, up to 10-15 years is reasonable—as long as the books are in use. And really, as a good thought to have in mind, while that book on Lincoln (or whoever) published in 1992 might still be valuable and interesting, it’s likely time to at least consider buying a newer copy of it.
Also, think about how many different works you might have on one particular person. For an enduring historical figure, two or three is probably plenty (again, if you have the room), unless you know of a specific assignment where these books might all get checked out. Keep up with new releases on famous personalities—political and historical figures in particular.
Now that we’ve reached the end of the Dewey shelves, the next installment of “Weeding Tips” will look at special considerations, including handling discards and issues surrounding academic and school-library weeding.
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