Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Great Weed of '09

The Emerson library is getting a much needed face lift this summer. By late August it will even have a real wall, which is pretty amazing to me after all these years of basking in the roars of happy children going from class to class. New shelves and chairs, a fancy circulation desk with room for all kinds of things, and a top notch projector system for my teaching area as well as one for general assembly use are just a few more of the exciting changes that await us.

In preparation for this major event, I have been weeding the library with an iron fist. We have to move all of the books out of the library before the new construction/remodel can begin. Why move more books than we have to? Besides, it seems logical to have attractive, inviting, and useful books on the spiffy new shelves that will line the new wall as well as the roll around the middle of the floor.

People have been asking me about the weed.

  • Why weed?

  • How do you decide what to remove?

  • What will happen to the discarded books? Will they get a new home?

I weed, therefore I am. I weed to keep the library filled with books that are useful and interesting and enjoyable. I weed to make space. I weed because it is good library practice. I weed because I can.

Deciding what to weed is not always easy. In fact, it rarely is. Even if the book is falling apart in my hands, I have to make the decision about whether it needs to be replaced.

For most books, there is a process that must be followed. I pick through a section of books looking at the condition of the book and the number of books we have about the same subject. I think about what the students are encouraged (or even forced) to study as well as what is interesting to most of our students. I look at the presumed last time the book was checked out (there are many flaws in the system of checking the date due slip, but it is a start) and make an educated guess about when it was purchased by looking at the bar code. The books that don't seem to fit my criteria as keepers get put on a cart and eventually make it to my desk.

This is how I spent the past week--spring break. I looked at each of the pulled books and scanned its bar code to see when it was acquired, how often it has circulated, and, if I am lucky, who was last to check it out. (I saw many books that were checked out just once to Susie Q. who loves any and all fairy tales or to Bubba Bob who reads everything parnormal. Now that they have read those books, no one else has touched them in years. There are other books that I have checked out to Luckie Duckie in what appears to be a vain attempt to get others to read them.) Then I decide the book's fate. If it has spent ten years on our shelves without leaving the library, it probably gets sent on its way.

But wait, what if it is a really good book that everybody should read once in their life? Could I toss Winnie-the-Pooh book with the classic illustrations? Of course not, but those keep circulating so they are out of consideration. How about something by Kate Seredy who I loved as a child but no one seems to ever read? That will tear at my heart strings, but in the end it may well be "so long, Kate". Some of the fiction I left out for a long time with a sign saying "Only YOU can save these books" and encouraged kids to check out anything that looked interesting and let me know if it should stay. That didn't save many.

Non-fiction is a little easier. My first year in the library, not quite ten years ago, I easily deleted a book on U. S. presidents that ended with a chapter on the new president at the time of printing. It optimistically said that this president would not have any of the ethical issues that had troubled some of our previous leaders. This new man, you see, was a Quaker and believed with this fellow Quakers in maintaining the highest standards. Even Quakers have people that don't quite live up to expectations. The president to whom they referred was, of course, Richard M. Nixon. That one was easy to delete, especially when there were kids who said, "Who's Nixon?" There are other out-dated books that make saying good-bye much more difficult. What do I do with a 20 year old book about nature that has beautiful illustrations? I read, I think, I decide if it is too dated to keep or if the illustrations make it worthy of a few more years of presumed worth. Are there some books that are old enough to be curiousities or collector's items? Maybe, but they belong somewhere other than a school library.

So it goes with each books supposedly getting fair and equal treatment. I will admit that by the end of the week, I was getting very tired of the task and fuzzy memories of the process. The ratio of books saved to books tossed seems about the same whatever day or mood I had at the moment so we can hope that all is well.

The deleted books will be for sale at our upcoming Used Book Sale. It is my hope that this sale will give new life and appreciation to myriad books that had been neglected in the library.

Now it is on to other preparations for the remodel. Hmmmm.... there is getting all of the books back, inventory, packing up the books. I also need to tackle my desk and the clutter that surrounds it. Is there no end to the fun?

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