Weeding: Dirty work, but somebody’s gotta do it

Dirty hands, originally uploaded by Photos by Rose.

For those of you following from afar – I’m still working at the library and we’re still going through big changes. One of the big projects we’re undertaking is a substantial weeding project. (Weeding is library speak for thinning the collection.)

We’re not really sure how much of the collection we’re supposed to weed, as the target keeps moving, but it’s already thousands of volumes. Unfortunately we don’t really have any of the collection data most libraries have when they undertake these kinds of projects because we only have circulation data for the past two and a half years, when we got an ILS. (Yeah, we’re a modern library now…) This means that selection of titles to discard is being done by hand for the most part.

I’m touching all the books and man are they filthy. It’s been an interesting look at what is really on the shelf. Some areas, the ones we know are used and are research, aren’t being affected. Then there are the sections that have made me scratch my head – why do we have shelves and shelves about soils? We haven’t done any soil research in decades. The same goes for our whole run of Elevator World.

Really, this weeding project has made me appreciate collection development policies. We didn’t seem to use one for decades, and now we’re going through a very physical process to realign the library with the institute. Paper cuts be damned, it will be worth it.

Seeing the trucks of books ready for the discard pile has really been unsettling to our users. Faculty are freaking out about us getting rid of so many volumes, even though we assure them they are items that have never been used and will probably never be used and are available elsewhere. There really is security in looking back and seeing shelves full of books. Even if those books are never used and collecting dust, as researchers rely on more and more electronic content. They want that image of the library, but nobody wants to pay for it. I’ve had to accept it and eventually they will, too. Hopefully we can make it clear how this weeding project will free us up to do other things, like data curation and management.

That said, I gotta go get my hands dirty and load up another cart about culverts.






One response to “Weeding: Dirty work, but somebody’s gotta do it”

  1. Bryan Avatar

    I see your point about Elevator World. I never knew such a periodical existed. I mean, are there any transportation research facilities that do much building transportation research. It looks like LC has holes to fill, based on my view of their holdings: http://lccn.loc.gov/77640840 Maybe they would take your discarded run.

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