Weeding, or the anxiety of throwing away books

So I’ve become pretty obsessed with my weeding projects. This is better than the feeling of being totally overwhelmed!

As the Collections Librarian, I am basically responsible for the maintenance of the physical collection. My library was moved to its current location in 2003 and underwent a massive weeding previous to that move. Our collection is wonderfully maintained – lots of space at the end of each shelf, continually shelf-read and ‘edged’ to the front of the shelf. We get lots of comments about how neat and tidy our shelves are (in contrast to other libraries I’ve seen).

While we have a fairly large collection for an institution of our size, I realized quickly that we have a lot of dated materials. Adjusting to the college environment meant that I would be responsible for getting rid of rows of books – something that can invoke anxiety and fear into the book-lover librarian. We simply cannot be a research library.

After a year working with students and faculty, I’ve come around to the realization that meeting user needs is really the most important goal of the collection. Our students are not writing theses or conducting graduate research and beyond. In most cases, research is not even at the upper undergraduate level.

For example, having out-dated medical texts on autism is a complete disservice to our students in early childhood education or education assistant programs who are looking for basic information. These students trust that the information provided to them by the library is accurate.

So my self-assigned project this fall involves making my way through the R’s (all of medicine) and being ruthless in my judgments. I’ve even involved a couple of faculty in the project – this made a great connection and helped the faculty understand the sources their students were consulting for assignments.

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