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Find more Weeding Tips
The general weeding guidelines found in the Weeding Tips series mainly cover what to get rid of (with a few notes here and there on what can or should remain) from any given library’s shelves. And there’s good reason for that. I can’t tell you exactly what you should keep. In fact, no one can tell you what to keep on your shelves, unless they work with your patrons and your collection. Weeding advice abounds, and much of it relates to a variety of collections. Reports can guide you in the right direction, but you will actually have to come up with the magic number that works for your library to apply to that data. While it’s easy enough to judge most of the nonfiction collection (tell me you don’t have outdated medical books on your shelves, please), what’s a good length of time to keep a fiction book? Three years with no circulation? Five years? Ten years? It depends on a variety of issues—how much space do you have? What is your end goal for the weeding project? What condition are the books in? And speaking of condition, who gets to judge? One person’s tattered is another’s “well-loved” (although, eww, I always err on the side of making the grossness factor a big consideration!).
This uncertainly is likely the main reason why some people are so uncomfortable with weeding. We all want reassurance that what we’re pulling isn’t something that will be needed. We want to know we’ve made the right decisions. What helps with those decisions is a solid collection-development plan—something I’ll talk about in the next Weeding Tips column. Having a plan in place puts everyone on the same page and can save a lot of time and frustration at all stages of the weeding project. Although it can’t tell you what to keep, it can give you firm guidelines of what should—and shouldn’t—remain on your shelves.
All of that said, I still fret over the thought of leaving people in the lurch with what to keep and what to weed. Feel free to e-mail me if you’re currently wrestling with something you are unsure about. While I can’t claim to give you the end-all-be-all definitive answer, I may be able to offer some help, or just reassurance that you’re on the right track. If I get enough requests, I’ll post the Q&A here in a future Weeding Tips article.
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