By Paul Duckworth, M.L.S.
Every library’s collection needs to be weeded. Here at Brodart, our collection development experts have decades of combined direct experience working at public and school libraries. We weeded—and weeded again. We survived. The collections thrived. Don’t object, don’t complain, weeding books need not be a pain!
We’ve got a few tips to help you dive into those book stacks!
- Make it a habit. Build weeding into your workweek in the same way you schedule meetings, projects, and lunch hours. Try it: 30 minutes, two times a week. Or, how about 15 minutes a day?
- Get practical. Your shelves may be close to 90% full—or more. Shoot for no more than 75% capacity. Ignore all the objections you hear going through your mind. As Shia LaBeouf would say, “Just do it!”
- Remember that you are a professional. You have training, experience, and good judgment. So arm yourself with courage and conviction. If there’s a good reason for every book, then there’s also a valid reason for culling some titles from your collection.
- There’s only so much space. It’s time to accept it: It’s a real world with limits.
It is good practice to maintain written policies and procedures. Educate all staff and board members so they understand the reasons for weeding. To avoid misunderstandings and minimize objections, be sure to communicate with your public openly, clearly, and positively. Be prepared for negative feedback and bad PR–step in right away with cool heads and factual information to support your claims.
Know your community and their needs. You are going to make mistakes—no one is perfect. Just remember that different feelings and perspectives exist among users and other staff. It’s important to listen, respect, and communicate. Consider sharing your intentions with patrons by posting signs that announce your weeding efforts and encourage input. “We’re making room for the new books that people want, Thanks for caring enough about the library to speak with me. Books are vital to our community. We focus on keeping them up-to-date, useful, and appealing. We sincerely welcome your suggestions for materials to add to our collection.”
Expecting proprietary collection analysis software to take care of the weeding process is magical thinking. Electronic data will save time and help you, but doesn’t take into account your decisions about usage thresholds, age cutoffs, and other parameters.
Keep your collection fresh, up-to-date, appealing to the eye, and rich in variety. Don’t allow new books to be hidden on shelves that are crammed tight with old, worn out, unappealing titles.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and many resources are available to help you:
- The CREW Manual, tried and true since the late 1970’s, has been revised more than once since 2000. It is available online at Click here for article
- The recent book by Rebecca Vnuk, The Weeding Handbook (2015), has been well-received. ISBN: 9780838913277
- Making a Collection Count (2013), by Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly is an intelligent resource for collection management, including weeding. ISBN: 9781843347606
Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.