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Find more Weeding Tips
I’ve spent a lot of time in Corner Shelf talking about weeding, and now it’s time for our readers to chime in. Everyone seems to have a weeding horror story, and several librarians have shared theirs with me. Read on, and see if you can relate—or feel a sense of relief that perhaps your weeding experience wasn’t so bad!
“While working in a large academic library, I chose to weed the law books in the circulating collection. Over 75 percent were outdated, and they were discarded. We never had a single complaint about such a huge weed—it appeared that no one ever missed them!”
“I happened to open a book one day and pulled out the date-due card. It looked heavily foxed, indicating it was ancient—only to find that the bottom of the card was pristine white. I decided to have a look at some more books and found the same issue. So I asked a long-term employee when the collection had last been weeded, and she said never. I went into my office and drafted a one-page set of weeding principles. I presented it to my city manager and explained that it was time to rotate the stock. He said OK, and we pulled a substantial chunk of the collection, including a mass of hopelessly outdated nonfiction.”
“In my high-school library, we began the process of weeding books from the shelves that had collected years and years of dust from lack of use. Some of the books were dated to the early 1900s! As we began the process, we noticed some books looked chewed on. We just assumed that having been on the shelves for so long, they had deteriorated. However, one day, when we were working on the same shelf, from opposite ends, I removed a book from the shelf and in front of my eyes was this tiny little mouse. I am not sure if I was more frightened than it was—but I would say that I jumped a few feet in total fear. The mouse took off in the opposite direction. My coworker took over the job for me.”
“When we moved into our new library, the city seemed content to finance only bricks and mortar. To wheedle city funds, I looked for evidence we needed new books. I found an armload of travel guides to countries that no longer existed (Ceylon, Rhodesia, Belgian Congo) and career books in which illustrations pictured only males in plum jobs. In my hunt, I passed a droopy unabridged dictionary on the reference desk. It was published four decades past. We didn’t bother rebinding—it went to the trash.”
“I weeded the 800s last year and lost track of the number of volumes I pulled that were original to the building’s construction in 1902. Tiny, tiny books that had been library bound, full of onionskin paper and those peculiar ownership stamps that look like punches. I’m not exaggerating when I say that out of the 50 percent of the existing items I weeded, fully half were more than 100 years old, full of insects and dry rot.”
“A few years ago, I weeded the 600s in a medium-size suburban library and pulled off a gem called How to Raise Your Mongoloid Child, copyright 1954. I regret to this very day that I didn’t take a picture of if before I threw it out.” [Editor’s note: I have also discarded a copy of this same book, sad to say. —RV]
“When I was weeding a school-media collection, I decided that my criteria for nonfiction would be that if any book had a copyright older than my mother-in-law, it was going to be tossed—including the astronomy book that said, ‘One day, man will walk on the moon.’ Problem was, that left me with almost no books.”
“One of my very first projects was a massive purge at a remote storage facility. Imagine a block-wide building filled with books of every description, and running around the perimeter were high shelves packed with fiction from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. A coworker and I quickly reduced that collection—on the fly, as it were—by at least 80 percent. It was a bloodbath. We were Huns. My own reading tastes are a little perverse when it comes to interesting old books, and I’m as likely to be reading that trendy best-seller from 1913 as the one from 2013, so this was a trial by fire. Our liberal-arts educations got quite a workout, and on the whole, I think we did a fairly good job. And, of course, much of the stuff we were getting rid of was precisely the kind of public-domain titles now glutting e-readers, something even I with my oh-so-space-age RocketBook didn’t envision back then. But, still, sometimes I reflect on what an utterly satisfactory and highly original reading lifetime I could pass among a library comprised of just one day’s weeding during that project.”
“Tech Services thought we had a good way to weed old editions of standing orders. When a new edition came out, we’d put in a slip that indicated the old edition should go to our department for withdrawal, carefully indicating the bar code of the edition to withdraw. The books would then be switched when being shelved. Well, we stopped that practice when we found the current edition had sometimes been sent back with the withdrawal slip in it. We’re pretty positive a new edition of a very expensive reference book actually got withdrawn and recycled and another one was on the way to the recycling bin when it was caught and we were able to salvage it.”
Got a good story for me? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may have a “Tales from the Front, Part 2.” All responses are kept anonymous, so give me your best tales of weeding woe.
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