Will Manley, “The Manley Arts,”
Booklist (March 1, 1996)
Carefully evaluate anything over five years old. Pay particular attention to the physics, environment, and astronomy sections. Keep basic works of significant historical or literary value, such as Charles Darwin's classic Origin of Species, or Michael Faraday's Chemical History of a Candle. Replace worn copies with new editions. Watch for multi-volume sets; if the titles are not indexed individually it may be necessary to weed the entire set, especially if the set is cataloged as a single entry.
(Crew: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, 2012)
Weeding is one of the most misunderstood jobs that I do in the library. Usually, I get the following comments and questions from teachers and students:
How can you bear to get rid of books?
Why would you want to get rid of books?
This book looks perfectly good; why are you deleting it from the library?
I liken weeding to cleaning out my closet. There are clothes that no longer fit, are the wrong color, are worn out, or don't serve the purpose that I thought they would. If I keep everything, I won't have room for new clothes. Frankly, I don't want to wear what I wore in the 1970s.
People seem to understand that, but they don't understand why we do the same thing in the library.
When I came to Greenhill eight years ago, I was appalled at the library collection. It was really OLD. It was obvious that many books in the collection had been donated from people's home libraries. (When folks get rid of books, let's face it, they AREN'T getting rid of the stuff they like.) It was also obvious that the collection had not had a thorough weeding for a very long time, if ever. The library staff chuckled when we read from the ISAS 2004 Self-Study, "The Junior Fiction and Young Adult collections in the main library underwent a major weeding in 2003-2004." Really?
During the summer prior to my first year, I lightly weeded the Teen Fiction collection. There was a ton of stuff that was really dated. It became very evident to me that may books had been acquired in the 1980s because of the artwork on the book jackets. I pulled off a large cartload of books. The shelves had been stuffed and books piled on tops of the shelves. I shifted everything to make it more presentable and usable. My predecessor commented, "We bought new shelves to accommodate all of the books; what are we going to do with them now?" In other words, "we don't really weed here." So... when the new shelves arrived, I shifted again. While there was still a bunch of stuff that needed to go, at least the shelves were not crammed packed with books. There were still plenty of books left.
During that fall, I asked if I could weed the 500s. It is crucial that the science section be kept up-to date. I was informed that the section had been cleared of things that were "just wrong," such as Pluto being a planet, but the area had not been weeded. I was also admonished not to pull off books if there was not other books on the topic because we needed to have "something." I pulled off a great many books, but there was still a great many that should have gone.
Four years ago, I decided that we needed to have a better plan than randomly weeding when we had time. I divided the main library into three sections in order that my two colleagues and I could more easily attack the problem. We referred to the circulation statistics of the books that we compiled from a report from our library management system. At that point, we got rid of books that were older than six years and had never circulated. In other words, unless it was of historic value, if the book had not circulated in the history of our library management system, it was withdrawn.
Needless to say, this was a painstaking process that took us a couple of years. We literally withdrew thousands of books. Some were simply ridiculous. I remember withdrawing a yellowed paperback textbook with notes written in pencil in the margins from the history section. Box after box after box went to the recycle bin. Our maintenance department didn't even want to talk to us anymore!
Our friends in the Lower School Library also weeded a mountain of books the last couple of years. While some had not been used in quite a while, many had just been "loved" to death and were very shabby. The library program was blessed with quite a few donations from Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day and the Lower School Library Staff replaced many series with fresh, new copies. One of the Lower School students asked if he could check out one of the copies. He didn't think he'd be allowed because the books looked so new, and he had been accustomed to such old books!
We still have a yearly weeding schedule. I no longer assign a month to a section, but each librarian has several sections that must be weeded prior to the end of the year.
|The weeded books from the 500 section.|
1. Were the books so good that the students loved reading them?
2. Is there really nothing else in the collection that has the same appeal? In other words, is there nothing else to suffice?
For the most part, our science section is frequented by Middle School Science students who have a "Science Literacy" requirement. In the past, those books had to be at least eighty pages long. Because most of our kids don't read science books for pleasure, this hampered my collection development efforts. I could only purchase books that were eighty pages in length. Otherwise, the books languished on the shelves.
While the collection is in much better shape than it was four years ago, I still found some old chestnuts like the pictured title. I'm so glad it was up-to-date to 2010!
|For Use Anywhere in North America Through 2010?|
Even with my weeding efforts, however, the science section is out-of-date. Using the CREW method quoted above, anything over five years old needs to be evaluated carefully. We haven't yet "evolved" that far.
When a library's collection is not carefully tended, the "weeds" squelch out the beautiful volumes we do have. Because of years of neglect, we are still playing "catch up" even with all of our work. Hopefully, in the next year or two our science section will be where it needs to be.
Unfortunately, there are librarians that are more concerned with numbers of volumes than with quality. Or they are concerned that due to budgetary restrictions, weeded books cannot be replaced. I contend that quality far outweighs quantity.
Now I go back to the process of collection development to replace many of those old books with new, up-to-date information.