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“Why are there weeds in the library?” you might be thinking. No, there are not plants growing inside the library that need weeding or pruning. However, it is what it sounds like. Each library has to decide what to keep and what to get rid of (i.e. weed) from their collections. The collection is everything that a particular library has that is available for lending. It includes books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, video games, etc.

Before the idea of the library getting rid of items makes your heart stop there are a few things to keep in mind. There are criteria for evaluating what the library keeps and what gets weeded. Books and other items don’t just get trashed. So, what are the criteria you might be wondering? I am so glad you asked.

Criteria #1. Condition

Sometimes books are so well loved that after a while books just fall apart. Book pages fall out or the spine breaks. DVDs and CDs get scratched and won’t play. Same thing goes for video games. In other instances, accidents happen and a book might be returned wet or damaged and a CD or DVD might be cracked or broken or even melted. We can’t keep items that are not in proper condition to be checked out. Some items can be repaired, others can’t and do have to be thrown away or recycled.

Criteria #2. Currency

Items in the library have to contain current and accurate information. Two areas where this is especially important is with medical information or books about technology. Think about it, you wouldn’t want a book with medical information that is more than ten years old. Or books about technology that is out of date.

Criteria #3 Space

As much as libraries would like to keep everything that they have bought forever, we just can’t. Libraries are limited by the physical space that they occupy and physical items take up a lot of room. In order for libraries to be able to acquire new items room must be made by moving some of the older items out.

Criteria #4 Popularity

Libraries do try to keep the items that patrons are interested in on the shelf and some items just don’t get checked out. Other items get checked out a lot. Some items are popular for a little while and others are perennial favorites. So, because of criteria #3 we have to evaluate how popular an item is and if it is not checking out that item might have to go.

All this begs the question, what happens to the items that are weeded? Some of the items get donated to other city departments. Other items go to the Friends of the Library book sale which helps raise money for library classes and events. The Summer Reading Challenge is an example of this. Items that are not suitable for either one of these things are recycled. And if all other options are exhausted items will get thrown away, but that is a last resort. Libraries are very serious about meeting the educational and entertainment needs of their communities and weeding is an important part of keeping a collection fresh, interesting and pertinent.

Thanks for reading!  Any questions and/or comments are welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Weeding in the Library

  1. Great explanation! It was always hard at an elementary school to explain why we weeded, then we started keeping examples of we didn’t want. It helped the kids (And parents) understand a little better!

  2. I like that you mention some books aren’t viable to sell back and instead are recycled or thrown away. You wouldn’t want a medical related book that was ten years old on the library shelf the same way you wouldn’t want to buy it! Outdated information doesn’t help anyone!

    Great post!

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