Friday, July 20, 2012

Weeding. It's not just for gardens.

In today's world of instant access, electronic resources and Google, it is more important than ever for libraries to maintain relevant collections. Unfortunately, many library collections are drowning in obsolete, unused, and unwanted materials. Many librarians worry because they don't have the budget to replace as many items as they get rid of.  This is a valid worry; however, shelves of items that are of no use or interest to anyone are just that: useless.  Weeding is an important part of maintaining your library collection and is something that should be done on a continual basis.  

If you're embarking on a major weeding project this summer, there are a couple different methods you can use (CREW and MUSTIE are good ones), but know that whatever method you choose is simply a starting point.  Use the criteria specified in the method, but also use your professional sense of what should be weeded. Consulting Services can provide you with a weeding list, just ask.

Your library board should also have a Deselection Policy to aid you in your weeding process.

Having said all that, this post is not about what to weed, but more about what NOT to weed and immediately toss in the book sale pile (again, use your professional judgement and only keep things that are right for your community).

Really think critically about weeding:
1. Local History Items
If you have one-of-a-kind items relating to your local history, that can't be replaced, you might want to consider not weeding these items.
2. Gifts and Donations
Many people think that boxes full of books from the basement will be welcome additions to the local library collection, and will be hurt if they later see the items on your book sale table. This is is why it is important to have clear policies on accepting donations in the first place.  You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so having a policy that states what you will and will not accept is important - be up front with the donor and explain that some items won't make it to the shelf.  For example, you should specify what types of material will not be accepted (eg. no magazines or textbooks) and what would be greatly appreciated (eg. gently used children's books less than 5 years old) - having clear guidelines and a policy that thanks the customer for thinking of the library avoids any misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
3. Memorials
Some libraries allow patrons to dedicate a book to a lost loved one with a book plate inside.  Weeding these materials is a sensitive task.  Here's what you can do:  If you need to weed the item because it is falling apart, outdated, etc., call the family (if they are still living in town) and explain to them that the "book has been loved to death" and that it needs to be weeded.  Offer the discarded item to that patron as a keepsake.  You could also invite them into the library to put a book plate in another book of their choosing.  This avoids any hurt feelings if you were to put the dedicated item in the library book sale.  

Remember, Consulting Services staff are happy to help you with your weeding project if you need further guidance.  Weeding.  It's not just for gardens.

"Weeding Library Collections." Small Libraries...Big Ideas. Accessed July 20, 2012

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