We've all heard the adage that you can't do such a thing but I've been weeding several libraries managed by others the last couple of weeks. This week it was time to turn a critical eye on the collection in one of my libraries. Believe me, I already knew there were some awful books that should go after seeing the collection last year. Since I started in the middle of the year and worked without supervision or much direction until the very end of the year (when I was just keeping my head above water before surgery) I didn't know what kind of latitude I had with regard to deciding when a book should go. Obvious cases like irreparable damage, mold, waterlogged pages, or missing pages were no-brainers. I was more reluctant about the books which were in generally acceptable shape but were either obviously dated (a book about the worldwide web from 1997, anyone?) or languishing on the shelves for decades.
The new supervisor gave very clear guidelines and warned the principals they'd be seeing significant piles of books removed from shelves. She said if we removed the books dictated by her standards the collection that remained would look brighter and more inviting. She was right. I dispensed with 165 books in the non-fiction collection alone. That was a very cursory weeding wherein all I did was pick out the ones that looked ancient and worn. Were I to actually go through book by book and check the copyright or edition dates I could probably remove nearly that number again. As it is, 88 of the books I did delete are older than I am. Ladies and gentlemen, pause to read that sentence again. I was born during the Johnson Administration. That's how long some of these books have been collecting dust...and that's no exaggeration, I checked the circulation stats on every book I deleted. Some of them had no record of leaving the library in ten years or more. None had left the library in at least 5 years.
Allow me to share some of the more....fascinating....examples of library weeds.
One might think an arts and crafts book would be less problematic because it's just about creativity. Creating with Burlap though? Oh yeah, there's a craft I am sure the kids will be excited about. I can just see some little kid running home and begging mom to go buy burlap for fun. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like itchy brown fabric.