Friday, January 7, 2011

Weeding isn't for Wimps

Since the spring semester hasn’t started yet, I took the opportunity to weed some of our collection. My purpose was threefold: to get an idea of what circulates (and what doesn’t), remove that really old HTML for Dummies book from the late 1990s, and try to figure out what to collect for some of my different liaison departments. Strangely, I really enjoyed weeding, and I want to do it again as soon as possible.

I learned a lot about our collection, but mainly I learned about my own approach to weeding.

  • Apparently, I am a slash-and-burner; I would much rather get rid of nasty, old, and un-circulated material even if we have no other books on the subject. I want shiny new books, because I know that our students will not even consider touching that dusty book from 1899, no matter how cool I think it is.
  • Gifts from patrons can be a nuisance. We have a number of gifts from participating members of our college community that need to be weeded. In fact, I’m not entirely sure how they made it into the collection in the first place. I feel no guilt weeding gifts from people I don’t work with, but it is another matter entirely if, say, the cataloger donated a self-help book that really is not appropriate for our psychology department. Mainly the gifts that I need to get rid of are out-dated technology books, because who even uses books to learn how to code anymore?
  • Other librarians really don’t like to weed. I have had to justify again and again why we don’t need to keep that book on trends in mathematics education from the 1950s, because even if someone wanted an historical perspective, they would not come to our institution looking for it!
  • I always forget to check what e-books we have and what is available on Project Gutenberg or Google Books. I know in some of my liaison departments, key theoretical works are now available free online. Does that mean I need to purchase a print copy as well? I’m not sure about that one.
  • Weeding is an excellent time to shelf read. I found quite a few cataloging anomalies, missing volumes, and incorrectly shelved books. I was able to reorganize my different sections.

Weeding really opens up space on the shelf. I have purchased numerous new books this past semester, and now they have a home!


  1. I can't believe I'm going to be this person, but I think you do need to keep purchasing print copies of stuff that's available on Project Gutenberg and Google Books. (I don't feel the same way about e-books your library owns; that depends on the user population and how they're accessing the books, etc.)

    I just don't think there are any guarantees that the stuff will be online, and you could be left without them. I feel differently about services like HathiTrust, which has member organizations and some guarantees on its material -- has your library explored an option like that?

  2. I had the same experience with gift books during my weeding project at my internship. Sometimes people think they're being awesome by donating, say, their 17 boxes of National Geographic. Let me know if you want to see our Gift Policy if your library doesn't have one! :)

    p.s. I also love to weed.

  3. Katy - I may totally take you up on that!
    Gwen, I like your point about availability. Right now it's really an issue of space, as in, we don't have any. I will keep your points in mind, though, because I think they are sound.