I’ve developed a love of weeding in libraries. Libraries need healthy collections. Weeding, much like in gardening, helps them accomplish this. And I’ll admit it’s taken me years to gain an appreciation for this task. I think working on a mock collection development policy for a hospital library helped raise my awareness.
Keri Cascio presented “Culling Your Collection: The Fine Art of Weeding” through ALCTS. Cascio is a branch manager for the St. Charles City-County Library District.
She started off with several reasons why librarians should weed collections:
Space – Libraries need shelf space, and even utilizing compact shelving may not solve all the space problems a library has. Books sitting on shelves also cost money-just sitting there.
Time – Getting rid of unnecessary materials can help streamline shelving processes. It can also help patrons find the items they need quicker.
Appeal – As much as I like antique books and jewelry, I don’t like “old” or “dirty” books and jewelry. You know the difference. One has value and enriches a collection. It has history. The other is a piece of junk, sometimes an unsanitary piece of junk. If you have a bunch of junk in your collection, patrons are going to lose interest.
Reputation – Are you up to date? Can your patrons find relevant and reliable information? Or do you still have books listing Pluto as a planet on your shelves? Textbooks outdated? Medical and technical texts more than a few years old? I’ve walked into libraries with out of date testing manuals, out of date technical certification manuals, and out of date medical books. And I’ve walked right back out. There is no excuse for that.
Collection Needs – Weeding can help you see what’s missing in your collection, what you have too much of, and what you need to repair/replace.
Collection Strengths and Weaknesses – Weeding places librarians into the thick of the collection. They gain a familiarity with items they may have never seen. Librarians also come away from the weeding process knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the collection and possibly how to work with those variables.
Cascio also discussed the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission CREW method. CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding. Check out the link for more info.
Weeding seems, at least to me, to be based on common sense. Don’t keep irrelevant and outdated titles. Keep your collection up to date and appropriate for your patron base. I know it’s difficult to let go, but it’s necessary to maintain a relevant collection. And, keep in mind that if you can get a title elsewhere (ILL anyone?) why bother keeping it on your shelves, especially if it hasn’t been checked out for years?
Cascio did mention some very important points concerning weeding. It takes time. Sometimes, it takes lots and lots of time. You have to plan. And starting small is better than not starting at all, especially if your librarians are new to weeding. Also, make sure your library has policies regarding weeding (on purchases, gifts, etc.). It saves libraries trouble in the long run.
The webinar closed with some sample policies from various libraries and some options for disposal (sales, recycling, donations, etc.). All in all it was a good presentation and reinforced my admiration for weeding and the librarians capable of getting this important job done.