Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Big News from the Library

     Weeding. This is the term that librarians use for deciding which books have been on the shelf too long and need to go, to make way for new books. For some in our profession, this terms is entered into the glossary right between the terms "bubonic plague" and "Patriot Act" in terms of discomfort. Seriously. Many libraries put off doing any weeding at all for fear of negative reaction from the user population (Q:"Why are you throwing this out?!?"  A: "because no one has read it since 1953".), or from an attachment to all the old familiar books, or uncertainty about what should stay and what should go. It creates a lot of stress.     
     Strangely, I'm not one of those people. I don't mind weeding our collection. In fact, I'd be very happy if our library director allowed me to do more of it. One reason I don't is that it creates a lot of work for our already overworked Cataloging department. Until you've seen the amount of work it takes to get a book out of the shipper's box and onto the shelf, you don't really appreciate how hard librarians work. But I digress. 
     Why bring up weeding? Because today, after several months of e-mail discussions, faculty from our School of Education came over to the library and took a look through our Education section (Library of Congress Class L) and decided some things could go. I had asked the Chair of the Ed department about the relative importance of the age of the books in that section, and was surprised to learn that the Education faculty would like the books to be no more than five years old, excepting histories of education and some standard works. When I pulled a report of books in that section including publication date, I found that over 80% of our books in Class L were outside that age boundary. I relayed this information to the Chair of Ed and they agreed that something should be done. 
     Did they ever do something about it. I was anticipating, in absence of input from the Ed department, removing about 250 books from the shelves, which is about how many new books we added in that section last year, to maintain total book count parity. The Education professors who came down today selected well over 1,600 books to be removed. BTW, if you're ever in a library and you see a book or books that have been turned down on their spine, don't tip it back up again. It's probably the case that someone wanted to mark the book to find it again (whether to check out, or to pull into Technical Services for some kind of processing). Well, that certainly will keep me and the catalogers busy for a while, clearing all that out of the catalog. Still, on the plus side, we will have plenty of room for new books when the spring book ordering rush arrives, and from all I've read in the professional journals, weeding actually increases the browsing and checking out of books in the weeded section. Don't know why, but it does. And if nothing else, at least we've given the shelves in that area a good dusting. The dust bunnies were piling up pretty fast, especially on those bottom shelves. Achoo!

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