Friday, December 4, 2015

Weeding 101

One of my favorite, but often overlooked, aspects of librarianship is weeding.  It's a good thing, every so often, to take a look at our collections in specific areas and weed out the old, junky stuff, and think about getting some nice, shiny, new stuff that will last us a while longer. I try to weed on a schedule throughout the year, but when something comes up - a holiday, a new season of sports - it's nice to take a look at that aspect of the collection. "Hey, I keep hearing about the Red Sox. Is our sports section up to date?"

Weeding 101

If you're new to weeding, or librarianship in general, you might wonder why we get rid of perfectly good books. There are several reasons, including:

  • If a book isn't circulating and hasn't for a while, it is taking up shelf space that could be used for something that would circulate.
  • It's nice to have a robust collection, but too many books on a shelf means that people won't take the time to browse through them - it's overwhelming. It sounds counter-intuitive, but fewer books on a shelf means more overall circulations. 
  • Sure, it's in perfect condition, but do you really want to be the library that still has the biography of Milli Vanilli on the shelf?

Here are some things to look out for when going through your collection:
  • Circulation statistics - I often start a weeding project by looking at the statistics. Have these books circulated in the last 2-3 years? If not, is it something that is important to have? Here in the realm of the Children's Room, we keep a lot of things that don't circulate too often, because I would so much rather have something and not use it, than not have it when needed. Such as: anything involving child abuse, parents going to prison, death... I hope these books aren't needed, but I'm not pulling them just in case they are. (I will, however, make sure they're not old and crusty.)
  • Age - Do you have books that are "perfectly fine" but super old? Perhaps there's a newer version where everyone isn't wearing bell-bottom jeans in the pictures. I try to make sure any books I weed are at least 5 years old, but that depends entirely on your own collection. In many Young Adult collections, a 5 year old book is positively ancient. The CREW Method gives great age guidelines for each section of your nonfiction.
  • Condition - Obviously, anything moldy, musty, dusty, yellowed, or falling apart should be either replaced or gotten rid of completely.
  • Usefulness - Okay, so the book is great shape, and it goes out every so often. But do you really need 5 different biographies of Rutherford B. Hayes? That's up to you.


If you use an ordering system like Ingram, you can scan in the book's ISBN (or type in the title) and it will bring it up for you. You can then click the Dewey number and it'll give you a list of other books (possibly newer and better books!) with the same Dewey number. How easy is that?! For example, I recently decided that, since it's December, I should take a look at my DIY gifts section, and I am really glad I did (more on that in a second). When I scanned in the barcode, Ingram gave me the author, title, etc., and this additional information:
Ah, 745.5! Just as I suspected!
When you click on the linked Dewey number listed, it takes you to a list of titles that also have that number, which you can then sort as you see fit. On the left, you can search within your results ("you know, I have nothing about paper airplanes"), or refine your results by clicking on format, age range, price, etc. I like to first refine my books by age range, and then sort by Ingram Demand (using the drop-down menu at right) - this gives me the titles that have been bought the most recently, which means they're the popular ones which will circulate, which is what I want.
So many books to choose from!

For Example...

Since it is December, I've decided that I needed to give a little TLC to:
  • DIY gifts
  • cooking/baking
  • kids holiday books
I found the best "gems" in the gifts/crafty section. Somehow, these titles didn't show up last time I went through here, but they have not circulated in two years, and as such, I got rid of them. 
Celebrate Helen Keller's birthday by learning sign language, and learning
about the 5 senses, 2 of which poor Helen couldn't use.
The only book I was really undecided about was Rosie O'Donnell's Crafty U: 100 Easy Projects the Whole Family Can Enjoy All Year Long, which had some really cute craft ideas. I weighed the pros and cons of this one. PROS: Cute ideas, in fairly good shape. CONS: Has not circulated, some ideas are dated, Rosie's show isn't on TV anymore, so she's not a name that people are on the lookout for. Ultimately, I decided to weed the book, because I realized, upon taking a closer look, that some of the pages were badly torn. But that's the best part of weeding - it's all up to you. You have the final decision on whether something stays or goes. Even if the book hadn't circulated and Rosie isn't on TV anymore, if I decided that I liked the ideas in the book, I could decide to put it right back on the shelf. 

Total time taken: 3 hours
Total books deleted: 14
Total new books ordered: 4

I always love finding books to weed. It's especially fun when it's a new collection and you don't know what you're going to find, but even in a place where you've been for a while, it's fun to get your collection into shape.

I'd love to hear about some of the more interesting things you've found while weeding! You can leave us a comment here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

(Please note: this blog post was written by Kat.)

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