Monday, September 9, 2013

Weed it (don't weep!)

Packed shelves: pretty colors but hard to use
One of the hardest jobs for librarians is regular weeding of the collection. A collection is built over time, and we become attached to the titles. We remember buying them, seeing them on the shelf next to each other. It's hard to say goodbye to them, but that's what needs to be done with those titles that are dragging down the fresher, more current copies we house.

7 boxes and counting...
When books are packed too tightly on the shelves, it's hard to access them. When books are tatty or show out-dated covers, they don't appeal to patrons. Books that don't circulate take up space and make the library feel dated and unattractive.

I'm starting with fiction, middle school fiction in particular. I'm following the basic guidelines recommended in the school library field, (I particularly like this policy from the New Bedford Schools). My process is simple, but time-consuming. Nonfiction is a bit different, so more on that process in a month or so!

Girl dancing with cows? Hmm
Fiction, First round: 
I look at each book on the shelf and get a gut feeling about whether it looks dated or worn. Those that do, come off the shelf and I check their circulation records. If a dated or worn book has not been checked out at all in five years, it gets deleted from the collection. Exceptions include classics or award-winners. I may get a replacement copy of a classic or award-winner if I think a fresh copy might circulate.

Fiction, Second round: 
If I complete the section and still feel that the shelves
Adventure w/pom pom hat?
are tight, I check the circulation of everything on the shelf. If a book still looks good but has not been checked out at all and it has been in the library for more than five years, I am likely to delete it. 

In this round, I have to look at each book quite closely to see if there's a way I could get it to circulate. We can't booktalk every title that comes in, so maybe some of these newer books that have not been checked out just didn't get promoted. I'll try promoting some of these, but if they don't move, they get deleted.

What happens to them? 
Our school works with an organization called "Read to Grow". One of our teachers has set up an agreement with a moving company which provides free shipping for books we are getting rid of. This includes old textbooks, but the library has been a huge donator of books for this cause. The books we delete from our collection are still in good shape and other children very be happy to receive them.

Packed shelves...
Weeding (or "de-selection" if that makes you feel better) is a win-win for us. It freshens our collection, makes room for newer more popular titles, and it benefits children who don't have as many books as we do.

...and shelves with some "breathing room" 

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