Friday, October 11, 2013

Avoid that weeding ‘horror story’

Five questions can help guide library staff’s decisions to remove or not remove items from its collection, according to Rebecca Vnuk, reference and collection management editor with ALA Booklist.

  • Would I be embarrassed if the library didn’t own it?
  • If I put this on display, would it go out?
  • Does the book fit the needs of my community?
  • Does it have local interest?
  • Is the author still living and writing?

During a recent Booklist webinar, Vnuk discussed how to manage weeding projects and avoid a weeding “horror story.”

Talking about weeding, according to Vnuk, shouldn’t be secretive or painful; library staff must have input. Front-line staff, especially, are the ones who discuss what’s happening with concerned patrons. All of them must be on board, relaying a positive message.

According to Vnuk, public perception is critical. She cited examples of recent news stories about libraries “caught” “throwing away” books. This blogger recalls one such story but believes that books found in a northern Virginia dumpster distracted attention from significant changes to the face of library service.

Many weeding horror stories, according to Vnuk, boil down to library staff not talking to the public: not explaining what weeding is and why it must take place.

Vnuk recommended that library staff emphasize the positives: weeding makes room for new materials, it makes shelves easier to navigate and replaces outdated information with current information. And, Vnuk added, weeding isn’t necessarily about removing library items; sometimes it involves replacing a worn item with a newer copy of the same title.

Vnuk provides more detailed “Shelf by Shelf” weeding tips at; type “Weeding tips” into the site’s search field.

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