Why I’m Not “Weeding” Right Now

I am pretty sure I’m not the only person who struggles with removing books from the collection.  Not the easy calls. Not the books that meet the MUSTY (Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial or not right for Your collection) guidelines.  We can all laugh at the science text that says “Someday, computers will fit on a desktop” or the copy of Twilight with the cover half off and the text block falling out.  When I came here 10 years ago, this library had sections in need of heavy culling, and I was equal to the task. But I have worked here for a while now.  Many of these books were purchased under my watch.  Maybe that’s why the word “weeding” sticks in my craw. Weeds are interlopers. Weeds are things that pop up where they are not wanted.  These books I am contemplating removing don’t feel like “weeds” to me.  I can look at many of them and tell you exactly why it was purchased, and which readers loved it…six years ago.  I can remember when we couldn’t keep that one on the shelf….in 2010.  When a teacher (now retired) used this video every semester, like clockwork.

The CREW standards (Continuous Review Evaluation Weeding) from the Texas Library and Archives Commission, updated by Jeanette Larson in 2012, offer ongoing ideas for a continuous process of …what shall I call it?  “Deaccessioning” is a bit unwieldy, but accurate.  Downsizing? Right Sizing? Grooming? (Thanks to my colleague, Cindy, for that one!) Removing books from the collection?  Lots of phrases sit more easily on my heart.

Part two of the process is what to do with what is removed.  Since the collection is fairly current, much of what is removed is in good condition (just outdated or low in popularity) so we are making categories.  I will take a batch to give away at the 7th /8th grade study hall, where the pop-up library sets up once a week.  We will invite interested 5th and 6th graders to take a book home.  Upper School students will have their chance.  We will invite teachers to come by — in the past we have invited the whole school at once, but I think we will sort by discipline, and invite smaller groups, with the hope they can more easily see books for their classroom collections.  Less “look at the weeds on our compost heap” and more “look at these interesting things that have fallen out of fashion.”  We will undoubtedly end up with a “free to a good home table” and then a trip to the recycle bin, but I am not coming from a place of yanking something out but from a place of cultivating and grooming a collection.

What sounds right to you, when removing books?  Do you have tips and tricks to share?

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3 Responses to Why I’m Not “Weeding” Right Now

  1. Maggie Knapp says:

    Some other thoughts on what we do when we remove things from the collection:
    We curate
    We prune
    (Thanks to Alyssa Mandel’s earlier post on Reverse Engineering the Library)

  2. Anne Porter-Roth says:

    This really resonated with me. I’ve been the Librarian at Marin Horizon School for 22 years. When I look around the Library, I remember the students and teachers who recommended, loved, and used the books. Many of those kids aren’t kids anymore. When I take books out of the collection, I usually take them to a local (San Francisco Bay area) organization called Global Book Exchange. They make them available for free to children and teachers. I often supply a friend’s Little Free Library, and we’ve also had used book sales during our annual Earth Day celebration. So there are lots of ways to give books a life after being in the Library.
    It doesn’t matter to me what you call the process. I’m not a fan of gardening, so the word weeds doesn’t have a negative connotation to me!

  3. I have been going through my library’s collection. My library hadn’t been pruned in over 20 years. It was fascinating to go through all the fiction and picture books and to see the books that hadn’t been checked out since the 1960s. Yes, there were books that hadn’t actually been checked out in over 4o years. It was easy to tell that most of the books had been very well loved in their time. Good luck!

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