Weeding Fiction: A Personal Tale

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.

from: http://sweetheartsromancebooks.com/

from: http://sweetheartsromancebooks.com/

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* The story and the cover are both outdated.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. Continue reading

Weeding

December is a slow month in my library system, so its the perfect time for weeding. I’ve been with my library for 6 months, but only weeded out paperbacks that were completely ratty during the summer. So my shelves are very tight, and its hard to display books on the ends. This means I have to buckle down and weed out my books, but this is the hard part.In school they teach you to weed based on condition or use, but you don’t go into library science without have some desire to put books in teens hands. I’d often find myself staring at the books saying things like “well this would be great for that historical fiction assignment.” or “But its still readable”

My job of weeding is even harder because we have a collection development department that does a great job of ordering what the teens want, which means I’m looking at a collection that moves. I can run a report for the items that haven’t circulated in the past year, but that’s not even 20 items. To make room on my shelves for displays, and for the great new titles that will come in 2008 I have to get rid of at least 5 times that much.

Our YA selector showed me how to tell if a book is in poor condition. If you put your hands on the cover and back and wiggle the book, you can test the spine. If it moves or the spine is separating you know that book is going to fall apart soon, so it has to go. Covers are also an important part of a YA collection. If you have books with non appealing covers that are at least 5 years old, you might consider finding a better edition of a title. We don’t want teens to walk into the library and think our books are all old.

Even following these rules I’ve had problems. Its very difficult to put a book on the weeds pile, because you really are worried you’re going to weed something that a teens will want the very next day or week. The truth is however, libraries don’t live in a vacuum. We have Interlibrary loan, consortium, and other libraries in our community. If you get rid of a good book there will be other places to get it.

To help me overcome my fears of removing something I didn’t even know the teens wanted I’ve set rules for myself. A book has to circ a certain number of times to be on the selves. It has to prove itself to be in my teen collection. If I really love a book, and think it should stay I’ve put it on display, thinking maybe teens just missed it. This has only saved one book so far, which has made me more comfortable with weeding out the books.

All in all this is something I’m still not 100% comfortable with, but its something I want to be. I know I can’t be the only one whose hesitant about weeding, but since its such an integral part of being a librarian I wanted to share my experiences, and tips I’ve learned from my colleagues to at least ease my own fears.

If you have any other tips or advice for a librarians first time weeding please post a comment.