Students in Library

There are many things I enjoy about being a librarian. As I’ve mentioned before, I find it particularly rewarding helping people utilise our resources to find the information they need. But a lot of the work we do as librarians isn’t really seen. Much of a librarian’s time is spent in an office sat in front of a computer screen – producing training material, managing web pages, communicating online with users, liaising with staff, reading list checking, finding out about new publications, researching and writing reports for projects, keeping up-to-date with developments in the profession.. etc. etc. So sometimes it’s nice to get out there in the shelves and do something that you can immediately see the effect of.

Weeding often seems to be a job that is put to one side, but it’s an important part of collection development. As well as keeping the collection current and relevant, it can also make life easier for users (and also keep costs down by reducing overheads required to heat/light extra shelving).

At my workplace, we have been doing a fair bit of weeding recently, and I have been doing a lot in one of my main areas of responsibility, the Teaching Practice Collection (materials for trainee teachers to use in lesson planning and whilst out on teaching practice). The collection contained some out-of-date teaching material, and this was my main reason for weeding. However, I soon realised that by weeding the collection it also made the relevant material much easier to find (not so cramped and easier to spot what you were looking for). Following a heavy weed, I was also able to remove some shelving and rearrange the area to create a room more conducive to study – room to prepare materials, work in groups, and spread resources out on tables. It’s a much better environment to work in now (not just a dark dingy room crammed full of books), and it seems that both the room and the collection is being used more as a result. I’m currently doing some research to see if usage has increased (and if so, by how much?), but I’m pretty sure it has and anecdotal evidence has shown that it’s easier to find things now – I certainly find it easier to use when I’m helping students find materials to use in their teaching.

From a personal point of view, it’s been a very worthwhile task, and although at times it has been a grotty job (some of the older material was way past its best and there was lots of sneezing!), it’s very rewarding to see such a physical difference to the shelves – I can certainly see the appeal of a physical job where you can see the fruits of your labour more easily!

How about you? Do you enjoy weeding or am I just odd?!

  • Jo Field

    I do like a bit of weeding too….very therapeutic to throw old stock away to make room for the new!!! 🙂 🙂

    • Oh good – maybe I’m not so weird after all!

  • Weeding resonates with my life right now – weeding the basement, weeding the kitchen, weeding my feeds… It’s not that one needs a bigger house, but less stuff, sometimes.

  • I had to do weeding a few months back: it’s taken me 4 and a half years to be confident enough about my stock to feel able to discard stuff. Even then, I still had my boss come through and double check each item. The result: 3 full shelves back, and a LOT of recycling!
    It’s a good feeling: getting rid of the “bad” stuff, and freeing up space 🙂

  • Sadly we don’t really have the opportunity for weeding our collection here due to being part of a legal deposit library. The result being a constant struggle to shelve new stock when it arrives. We do however move anything that has been superseeded by a new edition to another part of the library meaning that at least the main collection should all be fairly new and relevant. Only problem is that the collection of old material is rapidly expanding and empty shelf space is hard to find.

  • LonelyLibrarian

    I loved weeding (which I didn’t do myself) in the publick library I worked before, as it usually meant nice copies of lovely art books etc. to add to my personal library at home :-). The person responsible for collection care was quite unsentimental about it but I remember my ex-boss saying, when I started my training there, that weeding was one of the hardest tasks for a librarian. One of my colleagues used to store the long out of date books he’d withdrawn in his office for years – but at least they weren’t in the collection anymore.
    In the library I work now, weeding’s not really an issue as we collect books on the history of technology and the old and rare books are therefore never out of date. But I always chuck out dublicate copies whenever I come across them. So much better to use the space for new acquisitions :-).

  • Thanks all for the comments. It’s interesting to hear about different policies for weeding. I hve to confess, it took me a while to gain confidence to weed – and ocassionally there are items I’m really unsure about that I have to ask for advice on. Some of my colleagues also keep old stock in the office – just in case! I’m doing our childrens literature section at the moment and I’m finding that difficult, I’m not so familiar with the classics.

    Oh, and I too need to do lots of weeding at home – I tackled the cupboard under the stairs recently, so therapeutic!

  • I enjoy weeding, my first year or so at Solihull was spent going through the stock at nearly all our community libraries. This hadn’t been done for a while, so you imagine how many books came off the shelves. I’ve actually been looking for a picture I took after a day at one library (which I can’t seem to find), there is stock piled up everywhere in the workroom. The staff still won’t talk to me!

    Doing such a large of amount of weeding, you really get into it. More recently, I’ve been looking at our reference resources, which I less confident about. Really frightened I’ll throw something away of real value!

    • Yes – it can be extremely difficult with reference resources; for a start there’s no real way to see if they are still being used. I had to help weed a statistics section once and I spent hours trying to see if we could get the exact same statistics online – some we could for free, others we had to pay for. Was so time consuming and very difficult to make a decision over as you never know when someone might need the information!

  • Jenny Lees

    I too have been weeding our Teaching Practice collection, as we’ve moved over 6000 books from one library to the other over summer. It’s been difficult, especialy as wew’re shifting stock to a much smaller library (ours is not to reason why). However, as you said, it’s a great opportunity to get rid of some really old material. I do sometimes feel bad about discarding stuff and we’ve used Better Wolrd Books to get rid of some of the discarded stock. They take old library stock and resell it via various online marketplaces. They aren’t a charity, rather a ‘social business’, but the great thing about them is that their work raises money for various worldwide literacy groups and they also will arrange for the books to be collected. This was a real problem for us in the past – although we had old stock to get rid of, often it wasn’t the right type of material to donate to charity, or we simply were unable to deliver the stock ourselves. It’s been especially helpful to us this year as we’ve had no budget for shredding. Check them out if you get chance. I don’t know what your policy is, but it seems to make sense to send books where they can be used!
    http://www.betterworldbooks.co.uk/index.html

  • We use a similar service now – we used to pass them on to be destroyed and recycled I think, but we changed recently to a similar thing to you. Unfortunately they don’t take children’s books which has been difficult with some of the Teaching Practice Collection. But yes, great to send them somewhere they can be re-used and money donated to charity.