You know that joke about donning your black ninja clothes and weeding books at midnight so that no-one will see you? I get it, it’s funny, but not 100% based on reality. I know there are a few horror stories of weeding projects gone wrong, where some over-zealous librarian gets fired for “throwing out books”. These stories are EXTREME examples, and not something that should keep you weeding books at midnight. The truth is most patrons won’t notice what you are doing, and if they do, they will not care, they have other things to worry about. Most patrons are honestly, just trying to find their way to 648 KON and could you please scoot over before I forget this number again?
Your library probably has a policy on “deselection of library materials”, we use the CREW method. If your library does not have a policy, I would be shocked, what are we if not a bureaucracy? You need to immediately have one made and approved by your governing board and then take over the position of Director because the person running your library is a crazy person. Once you have your policy and have familiarized yourself with it, you really have nothing to fear when weeding books, stick to your policy and you will be fine.
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An important part of your policy will be what to do with the discarded books. This is honestly where patrons get upset. People hate seeing books in the dumpster, you might as well just set them on fire (the books, not the people). Most libraries funnel their discards to the Friends of the Library (FOL) where they will be sold or go through a second (less public) weeding process and end up getting trashed. It is important however, not to send the FOL books that include dangerously outdated information. You really don’t want someone taking legal advice from 1985. Recycle what you can, trash what you have to.
You probably spend a few hours every single week ordering books and materials, you should also spend a few hours every single week weeding. I schedule everything, so of course I schedule weeding as well. I use the same block of time every week to weed. I use time that I am not scheduled to be on desk and that we are not too busy, so that I can disappear into the stacks for a while and not be missed. I know everyone is not into “scheduling” and “blocks of time”, but whatever your process is, make sure it includes weeding. If you do a little all the time, you’re not going to end up with dumpsters full of books and patrons with pitchforks.
Weeding is part of the reality of collection management. Deselection is imperative for a healthy collection, you don’t want to have books that are outdated, moldy, or just not circulating taking up valuable shelf space at your library. Most reasonable library patrons can understand this, and if you get one that can’t, maybe offer them something by Marie Kondo. As long as you are transparent about your practices and are not being wasteful with tax payer property, there is no reason that you cannot weed in broad daylight.
Let's Collaborate! Have you or anyone you know ever had issues with weeding books? Comment below!
Larson, Jeanette (2012) Crew: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.