Wading through the Weeds - Deselection and Me
Collections are big and ungainly things. No matter how hard you try, they grow like topsy. But like any weedy thing, too much growth sucks up space, oxygen and *things* start taking over. Soon the weedy things completely obscure the healthy things and before you know it, kids and families start wandering aimlessly through the growth praying to the gods and goddesses to get them out of there.
Ah, it is clearly August in libraryland. A time when the minds of youth librarians turn to tending those shelves and making some progress through the weeds. There I found myself today working with a colleague and talking about what, for me, is an absolute favorite library activity - deselection!
Maybe I like it because weeding as an activity is a microcosm of management - a hundred tiny decisions that need to be made with confidence. Some are quick; some are slower and some can't be made at just that moment and the book needs to be re-shelved to see how it fares for a little more time. Perhaps a bit more face-out display time for this one or handselling to kids might jumpstart it. There is an element of careful consideration and finesse that I enjoy as well.
Today we were in chapter books discussing the kind of criteria that we need to think about to make good weeding decisions. Condition is always easy (Eeeee-yooooo = toss!). Of course, if it's popular, then we need to re-order.
How is the circulation on the item? With a three week check-out period, an item could have 17 circs per year in a perfect world of everyone keeping books exactly three weeks and no overdues. But more realistically, we expect most chapter books to have an annual turnover average of 4-6 circs. Way over that number and we may buy an additional copy. Way under...oh-oh, not making the shelf-rent and we'll have to evict you.
What is this book really? Has it stood the test of time and emerged as a keeper? Has the story, the writing, the plot and the language endured and found a home with the readers in our community. We have many books that are between 4-5 years old that have not crossed over that divide. Reviewed well but never truly a fit; sadly un-checked out; written by authors once - or never- popular, these books need thought but often must leave the island as well.
Books that are pedestrain in content (think the equivalent of series nonfiction - churned out; undistinguished; full of bad cover art and clearly aimed at a school audience that needs to "keep to a reading level") are an easy fling. Books once popular but fading in appreciation (oh Beverly Cleary, this is killing me), get to stay but only in a guilty way. As a resource library, we can always make the argument that our collection needs to be deep after all.
And finally, how does the book fit into the overall collection. Is it just one of eleventy-zillion fantasies and a poor circ'er? Good-bye. Is it our only book written from the viewpoint of a camel (let me check the circ on that and get back to you) with fairly wretched original reviews? Buy-bye. Do we only have the third book in the series and the rest are out of print? Sayonara.
Though the reader in me calls out to keep them all, the realist knows that we have reached a capacity that calls for one book weeded for every one cataloged. So it comforts me to think of these books going to our Friends who will sell them and give us the money to fund our programs and initiatives.
And don't our shelves look dandy and the beep of increased circs for the remaining books sound nice?
Image: 'La caverne aux livres' http://www.flickr.com/photos/24183489@N00/395079578