Weeding Books is a Routine Part of Collection Development

As a routine part of collection development the library must remove materials from the collection. It is called weeding. This is something we do not take lightly. Basically, we consider variables like condition, whether the item gets checked out or not, and use these, among other criteria to determine whether to weed, keep, or in some cases discard materials that are in a damaged state.

The books that were recently removed from the Steele Memorial Library were adult fiction materials that had not circulated in 3 or more years. We simply do not have the space on the shelves to keep every book we purchase. Ordinarily materials that are removed are given to the Friends of the Library. The Friends sort through all donations/discards. They will take books that they believe will sell in the ongoing book sale at Steele. Other selected books are boxed up and sent to a company that will then sell them online and send a check to the Friends periodically. The rest of the books are then sent to recycling. Something that greatly affected this is the fact the Friends no longer store all books and hold a giant book sale.

Due to COVID our normal process has been disrupted as the Friends are no longer able to come in and sort through materials. This left us with an inordinate amount of books which were stored in the center of the building. We needed to clear that space in order to allow people to come in and use the facility. Many places are not accepting outside donations due to COVID so that option was not available- although there is no organization that would have accepted the amount of materials we discarded as they have limited storage space as well. They materials were stored in the center of the library as that is the only storage we had available. Now that we are opening for limited in-house service we needed to move the books. We looked at other options such as donating materials to nursing homes, Salvation Army etc., but this was the remaining option.

Let me explain it to you this way. You want a nice garden so you purchase plants and water and fertilize them. Many of them will grow into fine specimens but some will die and must be replaced. As time goes by weeds will grow between the plants. This makes your garden look unkempt and can have an adverse effect on the rest of your garden. So you remove the weeds and may make room for your healthy collection of plants to grow. You may purchase more plants to fill in where the weeds grew. Even then you must continue to monitor the status of the garden- you may remove plants that don’t do as well as you like or in some cases (like hostas) you may divide them to use in other areas of your garden. Either way maintenance of your garden is a continuous project.

As a book lover I would normally be distressed at having to do this. However, being a librarian, I realize that weeding is a necessary part of collection development. Books do not come to the library to die, they come here to be used.

Ronald Shaw, Director
Chemung County Library District