It’s hard not to make it personal; that book looks good or I really liked that or I’ve always wanted to read that, but never did.
There’s usually a reason you never read it. For me, that reason is usually that a better book came along. And if a better book came along for me, one probably is going to come along for a teen reader.
This year, we’re running out of space.
Every year, I do an inventory in the YA Room. I use that time for shelf reading and weeding, too. Usually it’s a light weeding; books that haven’t gone out in a while or books that need a little TLC. At first, I was operating on a five-year shelf life, but after talking with some other YA Librarians on twitter, I realized I needed to be more ruthless. If a book hadn’t circulated in 3 years, there’s a reason. I had to find out why.
Some answers are easy.
* The cover is hideous. No teen in their right mind would want to be seen with that. Those are easily decided. If I feel I still need that book, I look for a version with a better cover. I wish I had taken pictures, but mostly if the cover had the 90′s feel to it, it was gone.
* The story and the cover are both outdated. Easy.
* The book is falling apart. Easy.
It’s the harder issues that make me pause and think.
1. How long has it been on the shelf and what’s the circulation? It could be that the subject isn’t of interest or it’s not the right book for the community – even if the cover is still attractive. In many cases, the cover wasn’t too great, which I’m sure deterred some teens from checking it out.
2. Is it part of a series? Do you have the other books in the series? If no, there’s no reason to keep one or two volumes, especially if they aren’t the first in the series. Is the entire series going out? Perhaps it’s just no longer popular. If the rest of the series is barely circulating, that’s another reason to weed it. If the rest of the series is still going out, I’d keep the whole.
3. Was it in demand at one point? Great author, award winner, or made into a movie? Here’s where it becomes tougher. What makes this book special? Just because it was popular at one point, doesn’t mean you have to hold onto it forever.
4. Is it on the school reading list? If so, then perhaps during the rest of the year, it should go into storage rather than taking up valuable shelf space.
I guess the biggest question when looking at fiction is – Is this book relevant to teens now? If the asnwer is yes and it’s still not circulating at my library, then maybe it’s the wrong book for the community. If it’s not relevant to our readers, then it doesn’t do any good for it to stay on the shelf… in fact, it brings your collection “down.”
This isn’t to say I didn’t break my own rules, because there are some books I know I’m keeping. With some, it’s because of the plot line, some are old favorites, and some are part of a body of work by important authors.
I know it’s different for each library and community. I’ll keep my eye on some copies, and if they haven’t gone out by next year’s inventory, I’ll weed them too.
I did put together a display, Save a Book, Check it Out, for books I felt just shouldn’t be sitting on the shelf. Some of them did go out, but others did not. Those were eliminated from the collection.
I weeded many titles, but I think that makes my collection stronger and better, as more attractive books find their way into the hands of teen readers.
With the massive increase in YA book publishing over the past 10 years, it’s impossible to have a teen room big enough for all the books. Can we just start creating libraries for teens only?