Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weeded revisted

I have written four posts dealing with weeding, in some fashion, in the Library. on 5-20-09 I said weeding was a necessary part of the process of maintaining a collection. On 5-23-09 I said some books need to go away because the person(s) who took them out brought them back in an untouchable condition. However, just because a book has dust on it doesn't mean it should go away. On 6-10-09 I suggested the system should seriously consider keeping every last copy. This doesn't mean we keep every last copy, but we use our critical thinking abilities to decide to keep or not. Finally, on 10-3-09 I wrote about the arbitrary standard used to weed books from the system.

At the Central Library, things have changed. We have stopped heavy weeding. We are taking more care in deciding what needs to stay and what needs to go. I am going to suggest a further critical method to determine what should be weeded: Pay strict attention to what is purchased.

If we buy a title we should be thinking for how long we are going to keep it. Is it entertainment? Will we keep it for only a short time, until it outlives its current popularity? Is it historical? Is the history ever going out of date? Then we should keep it for as long as it is needed. We know subjects which date quickly. Do we not also know subjects which do not date?

When does a book cease to be relevant to a collection? Perhaps we need to look at the authors intent, experience and writing style as selection criteria. One of the issues I had with the former weeding policy was the lack of critical thought demanded in choosing books to weed. One of the issues I have with the current selection process is the lack of coordinated effort and critical thinking used to buy. Two people do not have the necessary expertise needed to buy all non-fiction for a library system the size of SPL. Suggesting two people can buy for every subject area places an unreasonable expectation on them and a devaluing of the experience of other seasoned librarians who are just as capable of selecting but not given the opportunity.

The pros of centralized selection is a streamlined process unencumbered by 50-60 personalities. The cons are intangible, not measurable, resulting in the individual Librarian's loss of connection with a collection and the demand to keep up with current publishing and authors. I think the cons far out way the pros.

So, what are the pros for centralized selection?

Gerald F. Ward

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