We’d done “Books That Don’t Make You Blush.” We’d done “Religion: Relationship with the Divine” and “Read ’em and Weep. It was time for Popular Paperbacks to take a walk on the wild side. In 2007, the committee decided it was time to put together a list about teens’ decisions to have sex, or not. It’s no secret that teens are fascinated by sex, and that they receive mixed messages about it on a daily basis. We wanted to put together a list of books that would show how complicated the decision to have sex, or not having sex, can be. After much debate and a few raunchy jokes, the seven members of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults given the charge of constructing and giving focus to this list, including myself, got down to business. Read More →

I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether I wanted to write a review of Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World here, and ultimately I decided to publish it on my blog instead. But the process has made me think more about where YA literature and “adult” literature do and don’t cross over. Read More →

Magazines are becoming a thing of the past as many article focused publications move online. However this leaves out the teens who want to come into the library to browse, it becomes time to submit our requests for next years magazines. At my library no one before me focused a lot of energy on the Teen magazine collection, which has made my job this year to diversify the topics and weed out the under used magazines.’  My deadline for turning in requests is August 1st, and while I’m putting the finishing touches on my order I thought I’d share the resources I used to help me select my magazines this coming year: Read More →

The other day I had a conversation with library school students on the topic of fear.’  It came up when I realized that several of the students said they needed to be careful about what they put on their teen library shelves because of the community in which they worked. The concept was, people in my community don’t want that. I know my community and that won’t meet their needs.

As I kept hearing this comment I thought about how some librarians use “I know my community” as an excuse for not purchasing controversial materials for the collection. For example, if I say that my community doesn’t want these materials for teens on the shelves then it’s OK that I don’t buy them. Read More →

Frequently I have conversations with librarians that go something like this:

Me: Have you tried out this great new web-tool?
Librarian: No, I don’t have the time to try new things like that.
Me: I’ve been using it with teens and they love it. It’s a great way to connect with them outside of the library and a good way to keep in touch about programs, activities, and such.
Librarian: Yeah, that’s great, I really wish I could use it too, but really I don’t have the time to try out something new.

This week when having a similar conversation all of a sudden it came to me, why not talk about learning and using these new tools in the same way that I usually talk about developing library collections for/with teens? In order to build collections that meet the diverse needs of a teen population librarians find time to read reviews of materials, and tend to read many of the actual materials. Well, can’t we do the same with technology tools that teens want and need to use? For example, don’t we have to try out Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picnik, Pandora, etc. in order to put them in our collection of tools/resources/materials that we suggest to teens so to give them what’s required in order to fit a particular homework or recreational need?

If we start to look at technology as a collection item, in the same way that we look at books, CDs, games, etc. as collection items, doesn’t it then become easier to make time for the learning and collecting? In our physical and virtual spaces we need to collect an array of resources to fit the needs of the teens who use library services. We need fiction and non-fiction. We need homework materials and leisure materials. We need Wikipedia and Google. We need Flickr and del.icio.us. All of these items should be a part of the collections we build.

When looking at technology in this way it’s no longer a question of “Oh my gosh I don’t have time to learn something new.” Instead the technology becomes part of what librarians already do – collect materials and resources of all types that meet the needs of the community.

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.