Okay so I really wanted to say “Kansas City” in this post title but since I work in Indiana and have never been to a library in Kansas City it would be more confusing than witty I’m afraid.
I will admit, I’m not much for buying fashionable clothes. I’m happy in jeans and a polo with a sweater thrown on during the winter. (That might change if I ever find fashionable clothes that fit my oddly shaped body but that is a totally non-librarian topic, so lets get back to the point I was trying to make.) I do know people who buy wardrobes for every season, keep up on the latest fashions and when their clothes become outdated, stained, worn-out or just don’t fit anymore, they have no problem donating or throwing them away. So why is it so hard for some librarians to do the same thing with their library collection?
I have often said that one thing that keeps me from being a really good librarian is that I love to throw things away. I have always worked in libraries that have serious space issues. Maybe that is why Weeding has always been exciting for me. If we were going to offer new books to our patrons then we had to get rid of some of the old books. For years my Weeding selections have been decided by circulation, or should I say lack of circulation, and this works well when looking at fiction collections and what people in your community want to read but it doesn’t always work for nonfiction.
Your nonfiction collection can be outdated, ugly and filled with information that was current 20 years ago, and patrons could still be checking it out because you don’t have anything newer. There are two schools of thought when dealing with nonfiction collections. The first is that you should have something on every topic no matter what it is. The other is that it is better to have no books on a topic than to have incorrect/outdated books on that topic. Which school of thought are you?
Now I realize that library size and budget size play a big part in collection management. Maybe you are fortunate and can replace or update the majority of your nonfiction collection every 5-10 years. Maybe you can buy all new space books every time someone decides a planet is a star or a star is a planet. Maybe you don’t still have Travel Guides to non existing countries sitting in your stacks. If that is the case then congratulations but if you are struggling to keep your collection updated let me share a few tips that I have discovered.
1. What comes in should go out: when you buy a new how-to book, whether it is cooking, crafts, computer or decorating, find an old one to get rid of.
2. Get to know the CREW method: The Texas State Library has a downloadable copy available of CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries.
3. Know what is in style: you know your community. You know what they ask for and look for when they come into your library. You may have a user population of DIYers who constantly raid your 700 collection, or maybe it’s farmers, gardeners and cooks who keep your 600s going out the door. Focus on the materials your patrons use the most and just keep the basics available in the other areas. When styles change collections should change too.
4. Take it off life support: how many times can you re-glue a book? How many pages have to be taped back in before the book just isn’t worth it anymore? Do you really want that book with questionable stains covering half the pages to be checked out by your Mayor? When books get used they pick up bumps and bruises and eventually you need to replace the copy or go without.
So maybe my enjoyment of throwing things away doesn’t make me a bad librarian. Maybe it just makes me a librarian with an attractive, up to date collection.