A time to weed

To everything there is a season…
and you can bet there is a time to weed!

If it’s one thing that divides the library profession like nothing else … it’s weeding.  Some librarians will do it with a genetically predisposed glee. For them, weeding is a religion, or at the very least a deep-seated conviction that on the shelf with their Dewey cousins books need room to breathe, that less is always more, that relevancy and currency are the lifeblood of a healthy, vibrant collection…  NOT sheer, unchecked quantity.

Photo from Awful Library Books

The other camp views weeding with suspicion and as a last resort for every book is worth saving, right? — regardless of age, condition, and accuracy. You just never know when someone somewhere (perhaps over the rainbow?) might come looking for it. This group means well and their heart is in the right place … but oh how the road to hell is paved with such good intentions, leaving our stacks choked and over-burdened by outdated, often erroneous material with shabby library bindings (and even offensive odors).

Stop the insanity. A book’s value is rarely limitless nor its lifespan infinite. Even when the content contained within still has something to offer, the binding often deteriorates to the point where the book should be put out of its misery.  Saving particular books from obscurity and preserving them for future generations is the domain of Archives and Museums, and must be surrendered to these institutions willingly, and with respect for what they do. It is not the public library’s job to hold on to every single item ever catalogued and shelved within their collections. It’s ludicrous to think we can, madness to even try.

Photo from Awful Library Books

Space is defined and finite. Shelving obeys the physical law of maximum capacity. But only weeding when space runs out leads to all sorts of trouble … not to mention embarrassing results. Don’t believe me? Take a tour of Awful Library Books, a hilarious (yet sobering) look at just what library staff continue to find on their shelves on a daily basis.

Managing a library collection is serious business — and removing old books is just as important as adding new ones. De-selection is critical. Weeding the out-dated, no longer relevant, crumbling materials is a professional responsibility of paramount importance.

To everything there is a season, and there is a time to weed.

My weeding creed:

1) If it’s falling apart, dirty, and/or smells bad — weed it!

2) If it’s woefully old-fashioned, erroneous and/or no longer relevant — weed it!

3) If it hasn’t been checked out since Adam was a boy, taking up prime real estate yet not pulling its weight — weed it!

4) If you realize you are holding onto something for sentimental reasons rather than professional ones – weed it!




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