Monday, November 14, 2011

Out with the Old

In library lingo, weeding is the process in which a librarian must decide what materials should be retired from the collection in order to make room for new materials. Maybe the book, journal, or movie in question is not used very often (or ever). Maybe it is out of date or a new edition has come out, or it is simply old and falling apart. Whatever the reason, the books just got to go.
What happens to the books after they are weeded, though? I'll give you a hint. Getting all the stuff library staff put in books to make them shelf ready- bar codes, alarm sensors, those stickers on the spine- must be taken out. The process to un-shelf-ready a book is expensive.
Was that enough hint?
In this blog, S Peter Davis tells the sad tale of what happens to weeded library books. It's not pretty.
But it's all part of the collection development process.

E-books, on the other hand, don't have such a sad ending. Library e-book collections do not take up any shelf space, and in a perfect world they could live happily in the cyber world of the library web site forever. But this is not a perfect world and libraries have small budgets. So what happens to the e-book if no one reads it?

Don't buy it again.
Let the subscription run out.
Quick and painless.

No books are burned, no paper tarnished. Deleting a file does not have the same emotional effect as throwing out a book. Even if no one read it.

Side note:
I should point out that librarians are not heartless book killers, and destroying books is usually not the first option librarians go for when weeding their collections. Many have book sales or an on-site used book store. No matter what librarians do, though, some books will stubbornly stay and take up shelf space. Try as they might, librarians can't find a home for a weeded book. It has to be put down.


  1. Actually I thought librarians were heartless book teachers... No, that was the role of the teachers.

  2. I meant book killers.

  3. We put them in the attic at EB Crawford. Then try to sell them, then give them to Lit. Vol.