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To Weed or Not To Weed……

February 21, 2010

Even as a frequent lifelong-library user, I never really thought about how many books my library had, how old they were, and what happened to them after the library didn’t need/want them anymore. I was first introduced to the concept of weeding when I volunteered at the Sidney Memorial Public Library, when I was asked to straighten certain shelving areas in advance of weeding. I didn’t really know what was involved in all that, but it sounded kind of interesting. After we moved and my volunteer stint there came to an end, I didn’t really give it much more thought.

Weeding is one of the topics in IST613 this semester, so I have learned much more about it already. As an assignment, we were required to evaluate a sub-collection of 10-20 books within a library. I took the opportunity to look at the folktale section in my K-6 fieldwork library. What I found out is that weeding, much like the gardening task it shares its name with, is much harder than it first appears to be. My fieldwork supervisor gave me several tools to help me in this task: collection analyses and circulation statistics proved to be very helpful. I found some advice from SUNLINK, which also contained some great guidelines.

In the end though, I really feel that a book’s worth is in the eye of the beholder. Some of the more difficult situations I encountered:

  • a book donated in honor of the school custodian, who is still working there. The book is ugly and old, and would normally be a slam-dunk weed. Would weeding this book produce hurt feelings though?
  • a book that is very unappealing, but is the only book of its type in the library; also books that are unappealing/have no circulations, but have some curricular value.
  • award-winning books that obviously have artistic/literary/cultural merit, but have no circulations.

I did my best to evaluate the books using the tools I had, but ultimately I found weeding to be a very subjective exercise.

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