Thursday, June 24, 2010

I’m not going to go for the completely obvious gardening analogy

I spent the first couple days of this week weeding my fiction collection; initially my plan was to weed fiction and 700s (arts) and 800s (literature) , but the fiction collection took a while—and produced a large number of discards—so I haven’t tackled the other sections yet. I’d like to get to them before the end of the summer, as it would mean that I would have weeded my entire collection in the last two years. From there, I would really like to write some sort of general collection development plan, but I feel like I need to have a better sense of my current collection before I can do that. Also, I have little to no idea about how to actually write a collection development plan, and I’m hoping to find a graduate student in need of a project before I get around to doing it myself. Which is unlikely to happen, but a girl can dream.

In any event, I did weed my fiction collection. When I started I had 1669 books (according to my last collection analysis; it was probably a bit higher than that in reality, as I’d done some purchasing since then). I weeded 612 books, which is about 36% of the collection. Which is, you know, a lot.

There are a lot of librarians who have a hard time weeding; they can’t bear the thought of parting with their books. Not me. I am rather merciless when it comes to weeding. I have very limited shelving, and no room to put in new shelves; it’s either weed or stop purchasing. And now that I’ve removed so many old, yellowing titles, the collection looks so much more inviting, and is far more browsable.

One of the biggest challenges in weeding is not which books to weed (yellowing paperback that crumbles when you touch it? Weed it. Book donated in 1967 and not checked out since? Weed it.), but what to do with the weeded books. Not having an idea of what to do with the books kept me from tackling this project for a long time. I hated the idea of just throwing the books away to become landfill fodder, but I also didn’t know how to go about recycling them. And some of the books would still probably be wanted by somebody, but totally didn’t fit my collection.

And so, I’ve come up with a multi-tiered plan. I’m lucky enough to have a friend at a public library that does a book sale; the top tier books will go to her. My school’s bookstore manager and I team up to give books to a company that will either sell or recycle them; the second-tier books go to them. And for this most recent round of weeding, I’ll be re-purposing about a quarter of what was weeded for dorm and classroom libraries.

Now why, you may reasonably ask, would I take books from the collection, only to put them elsewhere at the school? The year before I started here we won a large grant from YALSA, in which they gave us a ton of books. It completely revitalized our fiction collection; however, we also got multiple copies of the same books (in some cases we got multiple copies of the second or third book in a series; I feel it goes without saying that in most cases I did not have the first book in the series). For a lot of libraries having multiple copies of the same book makes a lot of sense, and there are some books for which I like to have multiple copies; however, that is not, by and large, how my collection is used. And four copies of a 250 page book takes up quite a bit of shelf space.

But these books are still very good and, particularly given the spirit in which they were donated, I would like to keep them. And after reading The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen last year, I’ve become more and more convinced of the importance of having reading material widely available to students in places beyond the walls of the library. I created dorm libraries last year, and have managed to get enough donations to seriously up the quality of books that will be available next year; these books will serve to improve not only the quality but also the quantity of books available, increasing the odds that students will find something they like. I’m working on some ideas for promoting these “libraries outside the library”, but right now they’re still in the disjointed sentence fragment stage, so I’m going to wait before sharing.

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