Updated: Dec 21, 2019
Dear Dr. Laura
I know I learned about weeding the collection in library school. But, now that I’m actually here this seems like a huge undertaking. Do you have any tips for making this easier?
Scared to Weed Librarian
Hi, Scared to Weed Librarian
Welcome to your new job! I’d like to recommend a few things before you think about tackling weeding your whole library. Personally, I wouldn’t weed during the first half of the school year if I was just starting out as a new librarian. There are so many things you need to establish with your library routines and such.
So, what can you do? First get to know your audience and your collection. You’ll want to gather some information to discover the current state of things in your new library.
What is your district and campus’ mission statement and goals? What is your school community like? For example, are you a STEM focused school, which might indicate that your campus goals and library collection are focused on STEM? Or are you a fine arts academy? A health professions high school?
Do you have a collection development policy set by your district or a librarian before you? This is kind of the opposite of weeding. But, ideally it will let you know the process the librarian(s) before you used to build the collection.
Run some statistics from last year. What was usage like last year? Was the non-fiction more heavily checked out? Think back to knowing your campus goals above. For example, are you a health professions high school? Or was your campus trying to improve a certain area of their state assessment scores like science?
Now, when you finally feel a little more comfortable with the idea of collection maintenance, there are still some preliminary things to do. You need a good grasp of what your circulation system “thinks” you have. I say “thinks” because it possible collection maintenance has not been managed well. The librarians(s) or paraprofessional(s) before you may or may not have deleted books that were lost or damaged. So, your circulation system may still think you have books that have been gone for years.
Some people will suggest you go ahead and do a complete scanning inventory of your collection to actually know what you have on the shelves. If you have the time or the manpower to do that, go for it! Otherwise, let’s proceed without that as the starting point.
FIRST, look through your list of approved publishers for your district/campus. Reach out to your representative or get on their website and look for collection analysis services. They offer this service for free because, of course, they are hoping that you will use them when you begin buying resources to improve your collection. The analysis will show you where the weakest sections are in your collection. Remember though that is their opinion of your collection. You took some time to get to know your audience and school goals first. So, what might seem a little lopsided in most school libraries, may fit in perfectly for your school audience.
But, go ahead and run your collection analysis using a couple of your approved publishers so you can compare the results. Each will have its own unique suggestions. These collection analyses will also be useful to show collection improvement in your end of year report. Here are 4 popular providers of this service, in alphabetical order.
Bound to Stay Bound https://www.btsb.com/services/collection-analysis/
NEXT, once you have your collection analyzed you’re ready to move forward with some decision making. Where are you going to start? You DO NOT have to weed the entire collection in one sitting. I used to set up guidelines to weed a small section each month when I was a district library coordinator. But, since we’re just getting started, let’s go back to you knowing your campus community. Are you a health professions school? Maybe start in the Dewey 570s? Are you a K-2 school? Consider starting in your E or picture book section. Let’s use the 570s for our illustration below.
Print out a shelf list for the 570s from your circulation system and organize the books according to that shelf. If you do not find the book, mark it “missing” or “lost” in your circulation system. You may find it when you work in another section. So, don’t delete it entirely from the system yet.
Next, I recommend you use some kind of a guide like the CREW Manual developed by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in 2008. https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/pubs/crew/crewmethod08.pdf It is a standard many states use. Here’s what it says for the 570s. Your state or district may have other guidelines to follow.