Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weeding Challenge - Science Books

Before the madness of the summer really kicks into high gear, let's take some time out for a little spring cleaning. That's right: it's time for another weeding challenge! This time, let's tackle the science section. 

Weeding Generalities

As we discussed in our other Weeding Challenges (Cookbooks and Craft Books and Staying Trendy), and in our popular Weeding 101 article, the main things that most librarians look for when weeding a collection are condition, age, usage statistics, and usefulness. Of course, when there is ample shelf space in one area and another is bursting at the seams, weeding of the roomy section can be often overlooked, even when more relevant titles have been added.

Things to keep in mind when weeding:

  • How long has it been since this book last went out?
  • Are other/better books on these topics available either at this library or for purchase?
  • Do we really need books on this topic? 
  • Do we really need THIS book on this topic?
  • Is this laughably outdated? (If it is, send us photos!)

The CREW method of weeding (Kat's personal favorite weeding method) recommends that general science books, as well as books about outer space and paleontology, are replaced when they are 5 years old, regardless of how often they go out. Science experiments, mathematics, earth sciences, and botanical sciences can be kept for 10 years, as long as no major advances in the topic have been made. Life Sciences are recommended to be replaced after 7 years.

Of course, as with all weeding, there are exceptions. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is a classic, and won't be updated, but can be exempt from the restrictions, as can other books where the information is unchanged and books are still in good condition. Use your best judgment - this is a guideline, not a law.

Some Fun Examples

What is a Shooting Star by Isaac Asimov, 1991

Right off the bat, this book looks dated, and it is - 1991 was 28 years ago. (I cringe as I type this. 28 years?!) The inside is full of lovely illustrations, but in a science book, illustrations might not be the best way to go for a topic where there are ample photographs available. The information in the book is probably still fairly accurate - scientific definitions don't change that rapidly - but there have been so many advances in astronomy in recent years, there's really no reason to keep this one on the shelf.

Stars by Herbert S. Zim, PhD, ScD, and Robert H. Baker, PhD, D.Sc., 1985

This book is from 1985, making it 34 years old at the time of this writing. There have been huge advances in science in that time. In addition to just its age, we again see that it is primarily illustrated instead of using photos. 
While flipping through the pages, I noticed a handy chart of upcoming solar eclipses and where they can be seen on the planet, starting in 1985. The last of these is the 2017 eclipse, which is also in the past.

Biology for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work by Janice Pratt VanCleave, 1990

Science experiments don't change that much, in theory, but the books themselves do. This title has black and white illustrations throughout, and doesn't look particularly approachable. It's not to say that the experiments themselves aren't worthwhile, but the book doesn't make them look like a lot of fun. Most of the experiments are fairly commonplace, but the book also includes putting a fish into a bowl of ice water, which probably isn't as acceptable today as it was 29 years ago.

The Secrets of the Dolphins by Diana Reiss, 1991
This book has very few photos, and the ones that are there are black and white. It's a shame, because the information in this book is very interesting -- though probably dated.

Red Pandas: A Natural History by Dorcas MacClintock, 1988
Animal books are tricky, because it's not like facts about animals really change that much. A red panda 31 years ago is pretty much still a red panda today. Unfortunately, this book is very dated. The photographs are all black and white, and difficult to see. The text is very small for a children's book. It would be better to update this title with a new one.

Why Did the Dinosaurs Disappear? The Great Dinosaur Mystery by Melvin and Gilda Berger, 1995
I know that I keep harping on illustrations in science books, but this one is about dinosaurs, so that's not my problem here. It is a bit dated, having missed the discovery in 2014 that many species of dinosaurs were probably covered in feathers. 

It also includes a page that talks about how the brachiosaurus was the largest dinosaur, which is also incorrect. The brachiosaurus was the largest dinosaur when it was discovered in 1900, but has been dethroned by newer discoveries. 

In Conclusion
Weeding is a wonderful thing! It lets us get rid of the books that are no longer relevant, and thus have room to highlight the newer titles. 
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