As a librarian who came to a library that the previous librarian had lorded over for over 30 years prior to my arrival, I stepped into a library collection frozen in time. When I started, the average copyright date for a book in my library was from the year 1967. Events that happened in 1967: “Purple Haze” is recorded by Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Hoffa enters Lewisburg Federal Prison, and China announces explosion of its first hydrogen bomb. I’m sure that if asked, none of my current students would have the first clue as to who or what these people or events even consisted.
However, there was my fate: A dusty, rarely-read time capsule of a room from a time in history that predated my birth by two decades. I could tell that students did not use the library much at all. Stories circulated that the prior librarian locked the door between classes to keep students out, as well as only allowing any adult faculty members to read the newspaper with her permission first. I was going to have to set some changes in order to create a library that was faculty and student friendly, with up-to-date materials, all in a welcoming space. But where to start with such a large task looming over my head? I knew by just a glance. I was going to have to weed the library like crazy. Out with the “Someday We Will Go To Space,” and in with the latest YA novels and series.
First, I did a collection analysis. Luckily, the previous library had catalogued all of the books well in the online circulation system, so I was able to do a collection analysis. The analysis showed me where the weakest links in my collection were, as well as some areas that must have been more favored when my predecessor reigned over my library. One thing was clear: There was going to be a lot of free space on the shelves once I was done. The library needed a skilled librarian to do heavy weeding.
As luck would have it, I am not sentimental when it comes to books. I love the sight, smell, and feel of a good book in my hands as much as the next librarian, but seeing a stack of outdated, moldy volumes does not bring tears to my eyes. Rather, I get the “urge to purge.” Once I had my call numbers in hand, it was if I was a well-oiled machine; pulling and stacking, pulling and stacking. Tables started to look like miniature mountains with old books piled high to the ceiling. As I weeded, I would stop ever so often at a book’s title, that, literally, stopped me in my tracks. I’m not going to repeat the titles here, but the world today looks very different than the world of the mid-1960s, especially in regards to race and gender stereotypes. It is important that we weed our libraries regularly, in order to prevent out-of-date information to remain out of our libraries. We are the center for information at our schools. It is important that our libraries reflect that we are disseminating the most up-to-date information available at the time of inquiry.
The books were marked for discard and had all identifying markings removed, no longer linking them to our library center. They were ready to end their life cycle as a library book, making way and shelf space for a newer, more up-to-date title to take their place. As the carts of boxes were loaded, I breathed a sigh of relief, that I was now able to take the next steps in my long process of updating and improving my library space. Rather than weeding being the end, it is only the beginning.
Author: Megan Shulman
Megan is both the middle and high school librarian at Humboldt Junior Senior High School which serves grades 7-12. She has her Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Shulman has been both a classroom teacher and a school librarian. This upcoming school year, she will be entering her 8th year in public education serving Title 1 schools. Her areas of expertise are school library leadership, brain-based learning strategies, and creating maker-spaces in the current library atmosphere.