Well, not the Grim Reaper...just the library weeding Reaper. A post over at What Adrienne Thinks About That got me thinking about the importance of this little celebrated work ritual in librarianship. I don't know if the gardener in me or the librarian in me had the greater influence on my feelings about weeding. I do know that the process and the results are the same. You clear the dross and give air and light to the healthy stuff that keeps your gardens, yards and circulation growing and healthy.
The biggest stumbling block I've seen with people who are shy to weed collections seems to be fear of making a poor decision. What if I toss something and someone asks for it the next day (shared collections within systems and interlibrary loan will save you in this MOST unlikely event)? How can I set myself up as an expert and critic and make these decisions (you work with the collections every day and see what goes and what stays)? What if I make a mistake and through ignorance pull a classic (many books, websites, blogs and wikis help you navigate through those shoals and nothing works better to restore a classic's magnetic pull for a reader than a newer edition with an updated cover)? But I know our customers will get angry with me (no, they won't - they will notice, however, that it is easier to find materials now that there is more room on the shelves to let the remaining collections strut their stuff).
Weed for wear and keeping the collection up-to-date, yes. But weed deeply to grow the collection as well. If you don't have the heart to pull a book or series of books, keep them for a year and monitor their use. Keep your eyes out, if they are non-fiction titles, for books just out or coming out soon covering the same subject areas. Reserve some of your budget to buy newer copies of books back in print or with updated covers -it makes the weeding less painful.
Remember, a weeded book is not really gone forever. It often finds a new place in a loving home. But most of all...be brave, don't fear. You can do it!
Photo: FLickrcc "The Smell of Old Books"http://www.flickr.com/photos/78755281@N00/375980619