Weeding Q&A

Anyone who knows me, even just in the virtual realm, knows that I am a weeding fiend. And I’m not the only one with an interest. A recent Booklist Webinar, “Weeding: The Basics and Beyond” was so popular that it not only maxed out registration in one day, we also didn’t have enough time to get to all of the live Q&A! (We did stay a little longer to catch some of the questions. You can view the video archive version here.) So I’m going to hijack Shelf Renewal for today and take the opportunity to answer some of those questions.

You can also find more general weeding FAQ in the April 2013 issue of Corner Shelf, available online. Look for the article “Weeding Tips: FAQ.

Question Answer
Our mystery titles go out many times a year and are by-and-large in good shape. But we need space. So how do I know what to weed?Similar question: How do you weed collections that continue to circulate – such as audiobooks and dvds – so that you can make more room for new acquisitions and requests? That is a tough call, when your patrons are using the materials and they are in good condition. If it’s a space issue and not a use condition, you might need to tighten up how long you’re willing to go between checkouts. Some smaller libraries I’ve worked with use 3 years as a benchmark. It’s not unusual to go down to 2 – but even I will admit that’s getting harsh. Any chance you could weed a less-used area and expand the tight section?
Please discuss how the growing availability of e-books in public libraries should influence collection size? That’s probably a good topic for a separate webinar! In general, it’s probably too soon to start looking at e-books as a replacement for print collections. I think it’s a great way to supplement your print collection, but wouldn’t actually let it influence my print purchasing for now. You still have the same issues (one item, one checkout) but fewer people able to utilize the material (not everyone has an e-reader or is interested in e-books) so we’re pretty far from it being a tipping point. Someday…
Do you know of any organizations that purchase weeded library books? Powells, Better World Books, B-logistics, Libraries of Love, bookforward.net
Do you know of any research on patron attitudes towards a book’s condition? We may call them ugly, but do our patrons think so, or are we projecting? The three library panelists chimed in on this during the live session, noting that more often than not, it’s the patrons who have a more critical eye! Librarians tend to be a lot more forgiving of condition than patrons do. You know it’s bad when a patron worries at the circ desk about taking something home, because they don’t want to be blamed for the condition the book is in. Mary noted she tries to use the term “worn out” rather than “ugly” because it’s not as negative.
Do you feel the same rules apply to high school libraries? Our school is now 11 years old. Yes – if anything , school libraries need to be more stringent with weeding nonfiction and reference because of the issues with outdated material. Fiction, if you have room, you could be a little looser on.
Would you keep a 1990 edition of Robert’s Rules of Order? Has it changed enough to make it worthwhile purchasing a newer edition? Absolutely. That particular book has gone through 2 complete revisions since 1990, with the most recent in 2011. Not only that, but it’s a pretty inexpensive book to replace, so there is no reason to leave an outdated copy on the shelf.
What do you recommend the number of check outs be for an item before weeding? For example, I have weeded items that have a very old publication date, but had one or two checkouts in 2012? In a case like this (old material but recent checkouts) it depends on condition and relevancy of information. If it’s a fiction book, you can feel fine keeping it (or replacing if it’s tattered). If it’s nonfiction, weigh the accuracy and currency of the material.
I am new to the job and I am the only person weeding the collection. Any suggestions on how to divide it up so that I am not overwhelmed? I have completed YA and the 100s and am halfway through the 200s. Continue to go section by section so that you are able to concentrate on one area at a time. Look to the Weeding Tips series on Booklist Online, and the CREW Manual, both of which go through the Dewey areas shelf by shelf. Good luck!

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About the Author:

Rebecca Vnuk is the editor for Reference and Collection Management here at Booklist. She is also the author of 3 reader’s-advisory nonfiction books: Read On…Women’s Fiction (2009), Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Reading Interests (2013) and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009).

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