Deselecting the Guilt (About Weeding)

When it comes to collection development, I love weeding almost as much as selecting new titles. Actually, I may enjoy it more. I love it so much that sometimes I feel guilty. Not because of the uncertainty that is sometimes involved, but because it is so much fun and so satisfying. I worry that my weeding endeavors are a form of librarian procrastivity. I feel like there must be something more important I should be doing at that moment for my students or program.

Depending on the day, well, there very well may be. However, weeding is really important and easy to ignore and put off. It also has an impact beyond collection management and making room for new materials. While the library is more than the collection, the collection is a visible, tangible, and obvious sign of the care we are showing to our school and students. It is probably the first thing people think of when they hear “library,” for better or for worse. Prospective families get glimpses of it on tours. Teachers see it when they bring their students for exploration or information gathering sessions. If we haven’t weeded, they notice – along with their student who’s interested in a topic for which all of our books are dusty, decades-old, and written exclusively from a white cisgender heterosexual male perspective. Not only is collection management in itself a key piece of our responsibility to our students and our schools, but it’s also an issue of advocacy, inclusivity, and ethics. We need to have what they need, but we also need to not have what they don’t need. Specifically, material that is outdated, incorrect, or potentially harmful and counterproductive to tending a library that is inclusive, anti-racist, and student-centered. We can collect all the new award winners and more, but those trolls in the stacks are still there if we don’t weed them out. I’m embarrassed when a student brings a book to the circulation desk that we shouldn’t have anymore, and I have to give them a disclaimer. What faith will they have in our library or future libraries if I wince at the age of their selection and don’t have something better to offer? 

So, I can’t feel guilty about my time spent weeding. The CREW Manual advises that it should be a continuous part of our work. After ten years at my school, I am starting to weed items that I purchased, which is sometimes a slightly bitter pill to swallow. But, like Marie Kondo, we have to thank these items for the purpose they served and say goodbye. We gain clean, tidy, appealing shelves, students who feel confident and comfortable with the books that were selected for them (not for their grandparents), and more space for what they need. I find it’s a great thing to do on Friday afternoon.

6 thoughts on “Deselecting the Guilt (About Weeding)

  1. Just finished a major weeding of our general & YA fiction — just in time for a local book drive. Now those books can find new homes. Seriously, I only sent the good -looking candidates, not the ones that should be trashed. With our book fair coming up, I’m looking forward to being able to purchase new titles in both fiction and nonfiction that meet our current needs.

    Thanks for the well-written article – I’m sharing it with my admin. I told her weeding is necessary to gardens and library collections! Fortunately she is supportive, but not everyone sees it that way. Thanks again!

  2. I’m starting to weed ones that I purchased nine years ago as well. It is painful to admit that I didn’t promote it enough to make it a favorite.

    One of my biggest challenges is fine-tuning our diverse collection when so many of the older books by McKissack, Hamilton, etc are rarely touched. Many times they were award winners, but students do not check them out. As I highlight the ALA themes in my displays I book talk and display those older titles. Any other suggestions for helping those books have a second life? I do have to say that I am thankful for the new crop of diverse books we are seeing for purchase. It looks like publishers are finally hearing the cry for diversity.

  3. I am writing again to say that this indeed gave me the push I needed for a major weeding project! In particular, I kept this statement in mind when I kept wanting to return books to the shelves for “just in case” scenarios:
    “I’m embarrassed when a student brings a book to the circulation desk that we shouldn’t have anymore, and I have to give them a disclaimer.”
    Thanks again!

  4. Really insightful, Kate. I especially feel your pain when it comes to weeding things you spent time and money and care selecting. And it is truly amazing, isn’t it, that a book can win this award and that and then 20 years later it’s an awful relic you’d be embarrassed to circulate?

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