Top 12 Ways to be a BAD Selector - Part 2

Continuing on our hit parade of poor selection practices, I bring you part two.

7. Buy heavily in areas you like (cats; dogs; babies; horses; crafts; dad-daughter books) and ignore or shortchange the rest. We all love certain stuff and sniffily disdain other things we personally don't care for. A great selector pretends to be everyman and everywoman and buys widely and well in areas they have no personal stake in or love for. Recognizing your passions and realizing that they are not the only ones are signs you are going in the right direction.

8. Never weed books that you read and loved as a child. A corollary of the above. Getting to know the difference between a true classic that should be kept as opposed to your heart-stopping book adoration of your younger days is critical. It's always hard to bid farewell to something YOU think EVERYBODY should be reading - but they aren't. Sometimes buying a used copy for your own home library is the best solution to that heartache.

9. Buy lots of series non-fiction. While there are some stellar non-fiction series for kids, many are more marginal - poorly written, ho-hum photos like your Uncle Bob used to take, and often rubber stamp "revisions" that change a photo or two or add a box of new information and get a new copyright date to entice you to "update" the series every 5 years.  These series can definitely have a place in areas that kids are ravenous to get their hands on anything (dinosaurs! crafts! transportation! pets!). But they can be a budget sink hole in other areas - buy two copies of a great book detailing all the animals in a particular species for $15.99 each or buy ten single books on ten different animals within this species for $23.00 each?

10. Don't weed - and if you have to, try not to do it more often than annually or biennially or every five years. Another critical area. "I bought those books, I can't just get rid of them". Weeding is one of those easy things to do if you spend a little time daily/weekly in the collection, straightening, looking at what comes and goes; is used or unused; necessary or just a bit too much in the same area/subject. Rather than waiting to do it once in a while, regular weeding keeps the collection fresh and provides a far less stressful experience than wading in once in a blue moon. It also makes it more manageable to quickly look up replacements or do a literature search to strengthen a small area of the collection on an on-going basis.

11. Practice extreme ownership over areas you select in and don't let colleagues make suggestions or add other material. A truly diverse collection reflects many viewpoints and many strengths. Involving and inviting other staffers to put their oar in only makes for a stronger collection. No selector should ever own a collection. Practice generosity in selection and watch the materials fly off the shelves.

12. Never respond to patron requests. "Bleeh, they just want junk". On the other hand, they pay for every book and material and your salary. Give patrons what they want (if it falls within your collection policy). You may actually discover something new or areas you were unknowingly deficient in. You'll still have plenty of budget to get great literature. But you'll have won the trust of your bosses.

What bad selector ways have you seen, read about or observed? Dish!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay


  1. What about ignoring your library's collection development policy or mission statement? Title selections should directly support the purpose of the collection and the library.

  2. Oh, good one! Added on to that, never revise the policy once written!

    1. Sorry but I would strongly have to disagree with this statement. Once a collection development policy is written, it should be reviewed every several years and if needed, revised accordingly. One of the biggest challenges I see in my library is the lack of an updated collections policy. Our current policy is dated 1980s and is ignored by all of the Collection Leads because it does not reflect their current practices. For example, our collections policy still talks about CD ROMs and no mention of DVDs.

    2. Sorry I was being sassily sarcastic in the vain of "bad selector" behaviors above. It IS a shame that collection development policies at many libraries aren't regularly reviewed and revised. That was my humorous point!

  3. Just buy all the award books with no thought as to whether the kids in your community will actually read them or whether you already have 20 books on the topic in your collection (that aren't circulating). "But it won an award!"

    Weed only by condition, not circulation statistics or actual content. "But it still looks brand-new!" (that's because nobody has checked out since 1965)

    and this one I know people have different opinions on but, in my opinion it's bad practice to keep outdated nonfiction titles because there's nothing else on the topic or you don't have money to replace them. It's better to replace five outdated titles with one current title or have a gap (especially if you're a consortium where people can request materials from other libraries who can fill that gap).

  4. I love weeding. I just delight in thinking over all the factors that make a book worth keeping or not--almost like a little puzzle. I've worked in two public libraries now, though, and neither has had a regular schedule for weeding. They simply wait for the shelves to get too full and then dig in. I'm sure other libraries do things differently and I'd love to hear some other methods.

    My guess would be that many libraries have a schedule for weeding that rotates through different sections/departments...since that's what I would do if it was up to me.

  5. I know at bigger libraries I've been at different librarians have different sections they are in charge of. At my library it's just me, so it's a lot more...haphazard. I've been here five years and for the past four most of my weeding has been complicated, painful, and fraught with argument. Nobody had ever weeded before (I found some gems I can tell you) and my director required me to show her every title I was pulling. I weeded hundreds of books, argued with her over many of them, and had to keep a lot of things that I did not think should be in the collection. This past year, I have finally been allowed to weed on my own, but I'm not doing any more massive weeds - I don't have time and I've finally reached a point where they're not necessary. I have an Excel spreadsheet with every area of the collection on it and I'm weeding small sections, mostly as I have time and when they're getting crowded. I just did the R-S of the juvenile fiction and all the concept books. I have my eye on the picture books and biographies next...

  6. Yes, you reach a point where you know the collection like the back of your hand and can go in for precision small weeds. At one of my jobs the NF hadn't been weeded in forever. I pulled about 15% of the collection which made the staff anxious. I put it all on carts for staff to look through and said I'd put anything back they wanted or thought we should have. Very little went back on the shelves and staffers had "Aha!" moments on why books on the 48 states; when we go into space and the like had to go.

  7. I found a book on Charles Lindbergh...pre-kidnapping. Of course the ever-popular "someday man will walk on the moon". And all the computer books from the 80s...

  8. Jennifer, re: your addition ("Weed only by condition, not circulation statistics or actual content")--I once suggested to another collector that she should probably get rid of the book on robotics that was published in 1976. She said, "No, it still circulates." Well, yes, probably because there are so few updated titles in that section! Luckily the section was later re-assigned to another librarian who is an expert at weeding (not me, although I'm trying to improve). This was a really helpful blog post--thank you!