Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Librarians have different philosophies regarding the maintenance and weeding of collections. Because I come from a corporate background, I'm a little more ruthless than some of my colleagues in the public sector, where a lot of agonizing and wringing of hands goes into the removal of even a single book from the collection. Not that weeding is a task to be undertaken rashly and thoughtlessly (or with extreme prejudice, which I admit I do with Danielle Steele books), but I don’t see the need to spend 15 irretrievable minutes of one’s life deliberating over a grimy, circa 1980’s Suzanne Sommer's autobiography whose pages are covered with peculiar stains and of which the system has 30 other copies. (Actual incident). Other librarians have to weed on the sly because their managers outright refuse to do so, even if they have been ordered by upper management. To them every book, no matter how outdated, or in what kind condition, is precious and belongs in the collection. It doesn’t matter that carts of new books are languishing in the in the workroom, inaccessible to public, because even with the assistance of a crowbar there is no way to force them onto the groaning shelves. One manager confessed that she couldn't bear to discard any book because she each one was like a child to her, like every act of weeding was as agonizing and horrific as the scene in Sophie’s Choice when she has to decide which one of her children she is to send off to die.

It’s not as if the discarded books are destined for death camp ovens, or even for the landfill, for that matter. Weeded hardbacks are distributed to various community groups. The only exception is mass market paperbacks, which are ‘recycled.’ Most of these are uncatalogued donations we just throw jumbled together on spinner racks. Some of them circulate hundreds of times and are just not meant to endure so much wear and tear. When they are withdrawn we rip the covers with the library barcode off and then throw the books into the recycling bins like any other paper product. Even this task is too emotional for some of my colleagues. I was at a branch one day and a page was tasked with withdrawing some grungy old paperbacks. I heard some noise from the backroom where she was working. I thought at first she was laughing, but then I realized that she was crying. I asked her what on earth was the matter and she said, “It’s just so sad. I can’t stand destroying books!” I stood there dumbfounded while she worked herself up into quite a state. Her lamentations and caterwauling became so disruptive that the manager finally sent her home to pull herself together. I'm not making this up. To be fair, she does have a history of behavior problems, but come now. She'll probably be promoted to management soon.

Whoa. That's, um, quite a reaction.

I've been known to hang on to a few too many out-of-print books that are past their prime, but overall I like weeding, especially since our branch has long had a reputation in the system for having old, grungy books, so it's been my mission to get rid of that rep, at least for our junior collection (the adult collection still deserves it, frankly, although they're doing their best with their tiny budget).

Tiny Librarian
Hilarious post. I am all about weeding. I throw everything away. Except mysteries. Im funny that way. Anything with a stain or odour...OUT THE DOOR.

if it was a suzanne sommers autobiography, weed that shit. a suzanne sommers guide to the thighmaster, on the other hand, should be encased and given its own private room.
is it good to be in a career where your so called colleagues are so embarassingly screwed up? (rhetorical question to which the answer is no, ymmv).
I prefer to think of them as fascinatingly eccentric. And good material.
DISCLAIMER: Any resemblence to colleagues and patrons living or dead is unintentional and a complete coincidence. Everyone I write about is a product of my fevered, overactive imagination. I would never describe my patrons or colleagues in any but the most respectful, flattering terms. Except for that bitch Tracie.
Ha haa. We just went through and weeded from a couple stacks and my library director (I'm the only other librarian) said that's all I can stand to do for now. A month later I asked if we could start weeding some more and she said she needed some more time. I'm with you, chuck em' make room for new, good, nice, you get my drift.

Check-out "In the Stacks" it was supposed to be about library stuff and became personal
"Not that weeding is a task to be undertaken rashly and thoughtlessly (or with extreme prejudice, which I admit I do with Danielle Steele books)"

I would contend that anyone who's ever stayed in a reasonable quality hostel anywhere in the known universe will know for certain where all the old Danielle Steele books (replete with breathtakingly 80s cover art) end up.

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