To Weed or Not to Weed?

I’m sure that every librarian at some point has questioned whether to weed a particular book, but what about an entire section? Just a couple of weeks ago I became the librarian at a school that was opened in 1979; I am only the fourth librarian the school has ever had. The library space is huge and beautiful, but barely anything has been changed since the 80s; all the shelves and furniture are stationary. One of my goals upon accepting the position was to progress the library to become future ready. The library space needs to be flexible and multi-functional, therefore with my administration’s support we are removing unnecessary shelves, switching out the furniture, and creating a whole new vibe! In doing this I am currently staring at 192 individual shelves of reference books.

The previous librarian was extremely proud of her reference section and put a lot of time and money into purchasing and displaying the collection. So not only do I feel guilty dismantling her legacy, but there is a lot of financial value sitting on those shelves. However, in order to remove the shelves we want to make the space open and functional I need to weed!

My process of weeding began by running a circulation report in Destiny; this way I could view all of the reference books, their age, and the number of times they’ve circulated. Having the report helps me justify weeding certain series. As I go through each shelf I have come across books that look brand new; however, upon further inspection many of them are from the 90s and have never once been checked out (hence their immaculate condition). Other books, while older, are still relevant to certain classes but have also never been checked out. For those books I have been taking pictures and emailing them to the teacher(s) I think may want them for their classroom collection.

Although I feel guilty about taking so many books out of the library collection, I keep reminding myself of the phrase “use it or lose it”; if the books are not being used than what good are they sitting on the shelf taking up space? Some books that I am ambivalent about, I have decided to keep in our back annex for the rest of the year to see if they are used or requested. The books that teachers do not want or that no longer contain accurate information will be boxed up and discarded or donated.

Now that the majority of reference is online and the students have access to numerous databases I can see how reference books are becoming endangered. Databases allow students to save articles, and many allow them to digitally annotate the articles and have tools that provide them with the appropriate citation. So to weed or not to weed? That is the question of the month!

Author: Sarah Letts

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

Tags: , ,

3 replies

  1. Sarah! I am in the same situation. I’ve decided to still have a reference section, but it will be very, very small…only about three shelves, or so. The space the reference section is currently taking up…will be made into a “Reader’s station” with chairs and tables. I’ve also decided to move all of the series of books over there…so students have easier access to them. I was so happy to see that I’m not the only person struggling with this! Please let me know what you decide to do!

  2. Karen, the last school library I worked at didn’t even have a reference section instead they had a wide variety of databases beyond what the district provides. The librarian chose to invest the money there, which I can see being smart for the future. I actually ended up keeping a hefty amount of reference still; I couldn’t justify weeding books that were only 5-10 years old no matter how infrequent they’ve been used. So I put all of the books I decided to keep on the shelves in the back storage room and made a Reference sign to help point patrons in their direction if need be.

  3. We are constantly updating our stock as an HE library and we continually have to consolidate the stock and out library is tight on space. As an academic library books often have a few editions, therefore we can have may copies of a books with editions. We tend not to weed as our academics are not very keen on the term and therefore consolidate our stock. The books are packaged in boxes and Better World books (Better World Books generates funding for literacy charities through the sales of second-hand books).

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