Here’s the thing about gardening: you can’t just plant seeds and watch them grow. That would be nice, but it doesn’t work that way. You plant your seeds, you water them, and slowly they germinate, take root, and become a garden.
Problem is: seeds grow slowly; weeds grow quick.
I don’t garden a lot. Everything I know about gardening pretty much comes down to this: planting seeds is the easy part. If you don’t keep up with the weeds, your garden gets choked out, looks crazy and doesn’t do much of anything useful for anybody.
Same goes for libraries. Great libraries are full of great books. Librarians love to collect, organize and provide the best, most useful books. Getting rid of books? Not so much.
Librarians call the process of getting rid of unhelpful books “weeding” and it works just the same. You’ve got to pull the weeds so the good, useful parts of the collection can see sunlight.
Your librarians have been busy this summer thinning the Harriman campus book collection to get rid of unneeded, not useful, outdated materials to make room for the needed, useful, timely materials.
This is quite a project since it has not been done in a systematic fashion in the past 15 or so years. It is not entirely fun, but is liberating in an odd way. We discover great items on our shelf that have not yet been well-used because they have been hidden by the not-so-great items around them. We discover older items on our shelf that have been neglected and deserve more attention. We discover lots and lots of good books.
To date, we have pulled nearly 3248 items from our collection with more to come. This is a big deal. This is a little over 7% of our Harriman campus circulating collection (3248 out of 42,368).
This feels like a lot of books to weed at one time. It is. Remember that we haven’t been systematically weeding in at least 15 years. Our book collection has been much larger than it would have been with systematic, on-going weeding.
We aren’t doing this haphazardly. To prepare, we ran reports of all items that have not checked out since January 2007. We use this list as a guide to help us figure out what books are no longer being used. Some of them have been on the shelves since 1980 and haven’t checked out a single time.
We don’t get rid of a book just because it hasn’t checked out. We make our decision to weed or retain each item based on the following general criteria:
- What is the condition of the book? Is it ripped up, falling apart, is the cover beginning to look tattered?
- If the book is damaged, can it be fixed easily? If not, weed it. If there is any sign of mold or mildew, weed it. If the book has been checked out more than once in the last few years, consider ordering a replacement copy.
- Is the information in the book outdated?
- What is considered outdated in this subject area? For example, books on nursing and emergency medicine shouldn’t be older than 5 years.
- Is the topic relevant to the current curriculum? Is it something that students will need for research projects and homework assignments?
- If outdated, does the book have historical value that meets curricular needs?
- Would a newer edition of the same title be more useful and well-used than the edition currently on our shelves?
Like gardening, collection management is more an art than a science. When we weed, we are finding subject gaps in our collection that need to be filled. We have subject areas that will require expert faculty opinion to determine what we need to do.
In short, this will be a long-term, ongoing project and we will need the help of our faculty and students to figure out what kinds of books we need in your library.
We love being your librarians. No matter how many new databases, eBooks and websites we incorporate, working with books will always be one of our most favorite parts.