Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Judging Books (Not By Their Covers), part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the process of selecting books and media for the library's collection. Selecting materials is one half of the process of "collection maintenance," a process that is extremely important and takes quite a bit of the time we spend away from direct customer service. The other half of the process is called weeding, and that's today's subject.

Weeding a library collection is a lot like weeding a garden. You want to get rid of the useless things so that the good stuff can be seen and enjoyed. Librarians weed to keep collections appealing, up-to-date, and easy to use. We also weed to make room for new materials. Some of the "red flags" for weeding are:
  • Few checkouts in recent years
  • Outdated information or subject
  • Poor physical condition
  • Better books on the same subject

Different areas of the collection get different kinds of evaluations. For example, I recently weeded the history area to make space. I removed some things that had not circulated in more than 3 years, but kept classic items and other things that provided a subject balance. I won't need to look at this area again for a couple of years. Currently, I'm giving the medical section its third overhaul in 3 years. Besides making space, I also need to weed outdated information and purchase some newer titles. Unlike history, medicine changes quickly and regular attention to this area is important.

When I finish medicine next week, I'll move on to the computer books, which haven't been weeded in a couple of years. Space is an issue, but so is keeping an up-to-date collection, and we all know how quickly computer technology changes. After a quick review in computers, it's on to the fine arts. Then I'll see what needs attention after that.

Say what you want about the Internet. A library's collection is still the foundation of its service program. Like a garden, a collection must have continuous care. New items will be added and unneeded ones weeded, and everyone can enjoy the harvest.

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