In my previous post about weeding, I talked about the rationale and why weeding was so necessary in my middle school library (and shared photos, too!). This post will finish my thoughts about weeding (for now) but I felt like adding this info to the end of the previous weeding post would have been over the top. So here goes:
Why is weeding even needed, anyway? Here are my top 3 reasons to weed (in no particular order):
It’s good for the collection. Weeding helps cramped shelves be able to breathe a bit more (or a lot more!). Getting rid of older books or books that haven’t been circulated allows for shelves to serve their true purpose: holding reliable, current resources that students and staff can use without having to worry about blowing the dust off the tops of the books. I got rid of a lot of books that hadn’t been circulated in forever. Some books had never been checked out at all! Weeding is also good for your collection because of the frequent changes in curriculum standards. Here in Virginia, a few years ago, the Department of Education decided to change what history courses were taken in the different grade levels. Because of this, we had a massive amount of pre-1865 stuff that used to be checked out, but now it’s not anymore because it was moved to 6th grade, the last grade of elementary school here. The collection had been updated to include our new standards, Civics, but the books from the now-not-taught curriculum were never pared down. (I was also smart and looked for the most recent books we had and emailed the local elementary librarian to see if she wanted these books that covered new-to-them curriculum. She was VERY happy.)
All together, I weeded about 4,000 books. Yes, it reduced my books:student ratio, but really? A good ratio doesn’t mean anything if those books aren’t able to be used by students because they’re outdated. I’d rather have a low ratio, knowing that every book in nonfiction is current and reliable. On top of all of that, it’s super helpful when it comes to ordering because now I know which sections need beefing up and where to focus my budget. It is SO refreshing to walk the shelves in nonfiction now; I have even had staff say, “Are these books new? I didn’t know we had these!” Yep. You just didn’t see them before. You’re welcome. 🙂
It’s good for your students and staff. When older, outdated books are removed from the shelves, your students and staff are able to browse a more updated selection of books. Although the shelves may not be as full, what they are actually looking through is relevant and updated, and they can actually see their choices instead of picking through what’s decent and what’s not. When I was weeding my collection, I found an entire section of art books that hadn’t been checked out in forever. I didn’t even know they were there, to be honest! However, I wasn’t sure if they were something my art teacher covered in her classes, so I emailed her and asked if she would come down when she had a chance to look at them. She did, and couldn’t believe what we had! She had just finished a unit that could have used a few of the books I pulled out and said, “Please don’t get rid of these! I want to use them next year!” By asking her about the books in question, I formed a possible collaboration opportunity and enlightened her, for showing what we had, but also me, because I didn’t know those artists and styles were studied by our students in their art classes! I also had this happen with my Latin teacher and my history teachers. They came in (separately) for other things, but when I mentioned weeding the nonfiction and showed them where their sections were (mythology and Ancient Rome, for my Latin teacher), they commented that we had such a great collection and they couldn’t believe these resources were available. It has since spurred at least 2 collaborative lessons, with another lesson in the works! And isn’t this what we’re supposed to do as librarians? Be sure that everyone in our building (staff AND students) are effective users of ideas and information? How can they be effective when the print choices are irrelevant? They can’t. And the mission of the library isn’t being accomplished.
It’s good for you! I promise, as much as it seems like torture discarding books that you may have even purchased yourself, you’ll feel so much better once your collection is weeded. You may consider making an accountability list: Why do your students and staff deserve an updated collection? Stick by it, and refer to it when those books from 1986 are calling to you to extend their stay. If your goal is to be more involved in projects and other assignments your students are working on – no matter the class – how are you going to do that if no kid in your building wants to open the books you have on that particular subject? Your print and online collection should reflect a variety of interests and every curriculum taught at your school. If not, how are you going to do a display or pull resources for that new teacher or department that’s taking their first risk on you? When you have an updated collection, your students may actually look through these new books you have on display. You will feel more confident promoting it to your staff, which in turn may lead to new collaborations and different ways to integrate yourself into your school community. And yay for feeling more confident and satisfied in your job. 🙂
I love to weed. The primary reasons I love to weed, though, are my students and my staff. In the age of overwhelming information online, we librarians need to do everything we can to get our users to use our resources, no matter the format or type of resource. I can advocate for my library so much easier because my collection is updated and I know that, no matter what nonfiction book my students pick up, it has either been checked out or published recently, and aligns with academic curriculum or student interest. How am I going to embed myself in my school, in my staff’s units, in my students’ minds, as a place to learn, if my shelves are overfull with outdated material that not even I would read? The simple answer: I’m not. I’m just not. It’s the easiest way to make the library seem outdated and be counterproductive to everything we need to be for our users. So even though it might be difficult, start small. Make a plan. Create a rationale – and stick to it. Shout your progress from the rooftops! Tell a librarian friend. Share your results (briefly) at a faculty meeting. Take photos of the process. Blog about it! You’ll feel so much better that you did – and who knows? You will most likely see your readership and usage of the library go up. Now, the mission of the library is accomplished. 🙂
When was the last time your collection was weeded? How did it go? Post your stories below!