18 July 2013

The Truth about Weeding

For my non-library readers, weeding is the process of removing old beaten-up or non-circulating books from the collection.  It's a task that every librarian dreads but must do.  I dread weeding for multiple reasons.  For one, it's not easy.  Mostly because books are disgusting.  People touch them with their grubby hands, sneeze on them, and heaven knows what else (remember that episode of Seinfeld?).

But on a more serious note, there is no perfect formula for knowing which books to keep and which books to get rid of.  Sometimes I'll pull a book off the shelf that I'm certain no child has touched in the last thirty years and when I go to remove it from my system, I find that it was checked out 15 times last year.  Now, if a book is over 50 years old, it gets weeded (yes, I've found books in my current library that are over 50 years old.  I swear.).  If it's truly popular or it's a classic, I'll replace it, but super old books have to go.  In any case, whenever I weed, it always becomes a long process of evaluating the needs of my patrons, the quality of the books (not the exterior quality - the quality of writing, information, etc.) and that fantastically annoying dilemma of weighing the value of having the information in print versus online.

My current library hasn't been weeded ever in probably ten years.  It seems like there's been some dabbling, but no truly thorough weeding.  This is mostly because no librarian has stayed in this library for more than 3 years in the last 10.  However, I plan to be here for the long haul, so it's weeding time.  I wash my hands probably 80 times a day, my brain hurts from alternately laughing out loud and the books I find and truly wrestling with books that I'm not sure about, and I'm fairly certain I've been exposed to germs that have been incubating in books for years.  This post doesn't include any pictures because my library is a DISASTER, and I'm afraid exposing my camera or my iPad to books that old would cause a black hole to open up in time.

But boy have I found some treasures!

Today I found a book about Walt Disney that was written in 1953 and hasn't been checked out since...I don't know when (my computer system doesn't go back that far).  I also found a first edition of The Island of the Blue Dolphins. It's missing the jacket, but that little gem has been tucked into my office where it will stay protected forever.

The truth of the matter is, I won't be able to get my entire library weeded before the start of the school year. However, now that I've started, I'm pretty sure I can weed in sections through out the year, and then next year I can develop a 3-5 year weeding cycle that I can maintain for the rest of my time here.  For now, I think my break-from-weeding-to-blog has lasted long enough.
Back to the trenches!

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