The Highs and Lows of Weeding a School Library Collection
by Lindsay Carriere
This paper outlines the process and reflections of a teacher-librarian during the on-going professional task of weeding the school library collection. The author discusses why we weed, feelings and emotions around it including community reaction, and equity issues with examples. Resources used include Canadian School Libraries Collection Diversity Toolkit. On a personal level Lindsay says that she has a love-hate relationship with weeding. She finds it cathartic to cleanse the shelves and put lost books back into place. There is something about books lined up neatly and organized that brings her joy and tranquility. Lindsay discovered that there was much more to weeding, so much more. Journey with Lindsay on her documented quest to rebuild a better more inclusive collection for her school library learning commons.
Lindsay, there are so many things I love about this paper (and not just because you wrote it as part of your TL Specialist AQ!). I love how you are part of the process. You did some serious thinking and learning and point out accurately that our own identities and experiences influence our weeding decisions. (The anecdote of the immaculate fairy tale books is a powerful one!) I love how the learning impacted other aspects of your life, even with reading to your own child at home. That Ralph S. Mouse example really itches - would it help if the curators of the estate of Beverly Cleary republished the book but without that offensive section? Congratulations on the publication of this work of yours to TMC7 and I look forward to seeing what comments others will leave for you.ReplyDelete
Thank you! And thank you for creating a rich learning environment with so much opportunity to learn and share and grow. Truly the best professional development I have ever experienced.Delete
Weeding is such a fundamental part of the library, and often one of the most misunderstood. Reactions from other teachers and the public (if they happened to see the hundreds of outdated nonfiction I weeded in 2020) range from surprise that I’m weeding the books in the first place to questions about what will happen to the books. The most common reaction is incredulity when I mention that the books will be recycled, followed by inquiries of why don’t I donate the books to reserve schools or NGOs to send to Africa. Once I explain the foundations of my weeding process (MUSTIE) and add if the books are too old and outdated for OUR students, why would they be acceptable for other students? When I’m weeding while students are in the library, I’ll show them my Excel sheet and explain what criteria I use to determine whether or not a book can stay in the library or “make room for newer and more accurate” books. They absolutely understand the concept of the library as a living, breathing entity.ReplyDelete
It helps tremendously if we do have weeding policies that are just as thoughtfully constructed as our collection policies, so that when the questions do arise, we have something that we can honestly say acts as a guide and not merely acting on our biases.
Weeding is one of the best things to happen to my circ stats. It’s a lot easier for students to browse the shelves when they’re not overwhelmed by the amount of texts and titles. I started out working as an on-call librarian with a public library system in the metro Vancouver area, and at first, weeding was difficult, to say the least. I despaired and dithered over books that were on the edge of the library’s criteria for weeding. Then the longer I worked there, the more I saw weeding a a necessary part of the life cycle of the library. It’s a lot like ripping off a Band-Aid. Once you do the first one, it’s not so bad. :)
I feel as though I could weed monthly. Speaking with other professionals and learning about their processes is also helpful. I still struggle with hanging on to things. And find everyone wants to give me a reason for why they would keep the book! It's easy to second guess yourself.Delete
Thank you for sharing your stories of weeding. During my first five years in a high school library, I weeded more books than I purchased, even using all of my very generous materials budget! Making space for new and relevant materials is so important.ReplyDelete
Wow! I really knew nothing about the process when I first started. I would like to know more about data collection and systems people use (circ stats etc.,) when making decisions. I don't have a technician so I'm learning as I go!Delete
As Lisa said, having clear criteria definitely helps with the weeding, and Rabia's equity crtiteria you mentioned works well with MUSTIE to make sure we don't weed voices from our libraries which might be marginalized. Glad to see the Collection Development Toolkit being used to help reorient our practice around weeding,. Your journey is not an uncommon one, but is always worth sharing as weeding, when not done regularly leads to an unwieldy collection where books are there as an archive more than a living collection. Do you have helping teachers in your district or mentorship opportunities to work alongside others? If you do offering your new expertise in starting the weeding cycle might help someone nervous to start see the way forward!ReplyDelete
We have a network within the board where people can reach out. I am helping where I can. I feel I could use a mentor some days! When you are weeding, do you record what your remove or track anything specifically?Delete
Weeding can be emotional and contentious, which is why we need to be very transparent about our practice. Removing books evokes a visceral response, whereas if you deleted a virtual resource, nobody would bat an eyelash, I think. Weeding is a critical part of keeping collections current and vibrant, for everyone’s benefit, and needs to be understood as such.ReplyDelete
Quoting Ian Chant (The Art of Weeding. Library Journal June 2015)
“Even if all the weeded books meet the weeding criteria, the sheer volume can get people worked up. Large-scale weeding is what gets libraries into trouble and is where mistakes can happen. Going slowly and carefully is better for the collection and better for users.
When a lot of titles need to be weeded at once, communication is key. Being transparent about the decisions being made and the thought process behind them – and getting ahead of the story – can help prevent a library’s otherwise supportive public from becoming upset when a number of books need to go.”
Ideally weeding should be ongoing and systematic, formal and informal (if something pops out at you, remove it right away!), and most of all unemotional. I love weeding, but I have to admit, I've had to engage the thick skin strategy of survival occasionally! Nevertheless I love weeding!
Thanks for your paper, Lindsay. Weeding is a critical part of collection development, and is ignored at a huge cost.
Thanks Anita. I learned so much beginning the process last year. This year I want to tackle sections more methodically. I was curious if anyone collected stats for items removed, circulation stats, or documented this process in anyway aside from omitting call numbers from library records.Delete
Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful paper, Lindsay. As a new TL last year, I weeded quite a large number of books. Like you, it wasn't what I expected to spend my first year doing and I also didn't expect to enjoy it... but I loved it! Once I started, the benefits just became so clear. More space, easier student access, higher circulation, and a greater ability to see what's needed through an equity lens. Plus the bonus of easier shelving! I hope your advice resonates with others because it is so true: "What I have learned from my research and weeding experience is that there is no better time to start than today." Thanks for sharing your journey.ReplyDelete
Thanks Beverley. Despite the varied emotions it was cathartic. I am looking forward to starting again this year with a more methodical approach, focusing more on equity.Delete
Lindsay I really enjoyed reading your experience although it did trigger some serious flashbacks. Weeding in a garden allows other plants to thrive and it sounds like you have evidence to show how more relevant books are shining through. I hope you have a bountiful budget to keep your collection fully blooming year after year.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much! My admin have been great with financial support. I'll take Anita's wisdom to heart this year to "go slowly and carefully", to make it easier on the collection and users. Currently .971 is in shambles.Delete