If you’ve come into McClintic Library recently, you’ve seen stacks of books sitting around near the magazine area. This is my fault—I’ve been weeding our collection. Weeding is a necessary, and dreaded, job for librarians. Sadly, a library has only so many shelves, and when they get crowded – packed” is more like it – something has to be done.
McClintic’s fiction section was beyond full, and I realized I hadn’t gone through our non-fiction section in a while. So, pulling some non-fiction books and shifting everything would give me more space in my fiction section. But it’s a big job.
How do I decide to pull a book?
The first thing I notice is the condition of the book – loose pages, water damage, serious stains or dirt all plays a part in my decision. If the book is heavily used, I may purchase a new copy. Next, I check how long I’ve had the book on the shelf, and how many times it has circulated. Low usage means there is little interest in the book and that I can make room for something of more interest. In the case of non-fiction, I also make sure the information in the book isn’t outdated; librarians hate misinformation! I’ve recently updated quite a few of our medical and health books. My goal is to have current (within five years) health information because information changes frequently with medicine. With non-fiction, I also consider if perhaps the book is used in-house, but not necessarily checked out. That does happen more than you would realize, and if I think a book falls into this category, I keep it.
Fiction is a little easier to weed, as the decision rests on condition and use alone. If a book is part of a series, I try to either keep the whole series, or pull the whole series if no one is reading it any more. Authors go in and out of popularity, and so my collection has to reflect that. Some people are dismayed to see a certain book go – including myself at times – but we need to be a collection of popular titles, not a repository of all fiction. It’s also important to have good copies of the classics, and I will periodically update our older copies with nice, new editions.
Condition is just about the sole criteria for weeding out children’s books. There is always a new reader coming up the ranks, and children’s materials take quite a while to become “unpopular.” That’s my favorite section to weed, because it’s the easiest!
I’ve made room for our expanding fiction collection. Our adult fiction is the highest circulating section of the whole library, and so I feel that justifies making more room for more new books. And while it’s hard to let go of some of these old friends, I hope that someone will come in, see the book in the book sale, and realize they can give it a good home.