If the joy of collection development is purchasing, then its horror must be weeding.’  As a book lover and person whose daily work is to develop the love of reading in others, I, like many librarians, am emotionally connected to the books in my collection.’  That emotional connection makes weeding excruciating.’ 

I managed to scrape by with minimal weeding my first year of librarianship—only deselecting the books in poorest physical condition—but by my second year, the shelves were groaning.’  So I sucked it up, dusted off an ancient weeding manual from the director’s bookshelf, and got to it.’  Ambitious as I was to give the entire Youth Services collection a once-over in the course of a year, the effort was severely hampered by my book-by-book battle against the weeding manual guidelines.’  By the end of the year I had weeded just a third of the collection, and the weeding I had accomplished was overly conservative.’  I felt disappointed that I had poorly executed a good idea.

In the new year, I was given a chance to redeem myself: the director stepped in with a plan to inventory and radically weed the entire library.’  Armed with a 600 page list, library staff checked the shelves for books that had not circulated for the past two years.’  The Adult Services Librarian and I were encouraged to weed any book from that list that remained on the shelf.’  Though it may seem harsh, this data-centric weeding was both freeing and productive.’  If a book had failed to circulate, then statistics demonstrated that the book had failed to earn its place on the shelf.’  It was detracting from the physical appeal and timeliness of the collection, and was distracting patrons from the book they did want to check out.’  In difficult cases—when I judged a book to be too good to merit weeding—I consulted the weeding manual once again before making a final judgment.

At the end of 2011, I had successfully weeded the entire Youth Services department—roughly 8,000 materials.’  Our shelves look neater, the average book is in good physical condition, the median age of the collection is more current, the collection has room to grow through new purchases, and we can begin some face-out shelving.

And you know what?’ ‘  I’m looking forward to 2012’s weeding too.’  Youth Services has a new 600 page list of items that have circulated less than three times in the past two years.

Irrefutable data made weeding significantly easier for me.’  What has your weeding experience been?’  If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the ALA’s Fact Sheet on Weeding.

About Jacqui Taylor

Jacqui Taylor is the head of Youth Services at a small Ohio library. She participated in the 2011 YALSA Mentoring Program, and served on YALSA's Baker and Taylor Award Jury and Indiana's Children and Youth Professional Development Division.

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