My bookshelves runneth over.
If you don’t believe me, just ask my mom. She helped me move into this apartment last January when I started my grad school program. I downsized apartments because I knew I couldn’t afford to continue living in the spacious one-bedroom (with sunroom) that I had, so I lost a lot of square footage (over 100 sq. ft.). That’s a big loss in size and one of my bookshelves didn’t fit in the new apartment. I gave it to a friend, and resolved to use the built-in (which is smaller and so didn’t hold all of my books). In addition, the cookbooks that used to live in a kitchen cabinet now had to go on a bookshelf, because my new kitchen doesn’t have enough cabinet space to house the cookbooks. There is a stack of books neatly next to one of my bookshelves, because there is nowhere else for those books to go.
Which leads me to my subject for today. Weeding. For those that read this who aren’t library professionals or students, weeding is the process during which a library removes books from its shelves. Weeding is something that, as a library customer, I find annoying. It’s when you get to the library only to discover that the series of books that you absolutely loved isn’t there anymore, and not because someone has it checked out, but because the library decided not to keep it anymore. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen too often, but it can happen, because just like grad student moving to a smaller apartment, libraries have a limited amount of space and sometimes older books have to be removed to make room for new books. As a library student, I understand the necessity of making room for new books at the expense of old ones.
Hopefully, the library has a good set of rules for which books get weeded. Books that are extremely out of date, or provide inaccurate information might be a part of that policy. Books that have fallen into a state of disrepair and can’t be fixed are another. One blog Awful Library Books, shows books that have been weeded from library shelves by librarians, and probably for good reason. Some standards that might be used for weeding include, old or outdated information, contains incorrect information, doesn’t circulate, no longer fits with the mission of the library.
But these standards have to be adjusted based on the last specifically. Every library has a mission, and that mission should impact the weeding policy of the library. Why? Well, let’s talk medical texts for example. Medical science has changed a great deal in the last century. Books written 50-100 years ago often contain inaccurate medical information that was believed to be correct at the time the book was written. Most people might think that any library would weed out a medical text that was 100 years old, but not all will. Why? Well, certainly a public library probably doesn’t need that book anymore, and it likely no longer serves the public library’s mission in serving the public. However, a medical school library might keep that same book, so that students can look at the history of treatments for an illness. Even though the medical science in the book is now known to be incorrect, the history of how a disease was treated includes when mistakes were made. Libraries with different missions have a need for different books.
So, if every now and then, a book you liked disappears from your library’s shelves and catalog, you know what might have happened to it. It may have been weeded as part of the collection (it could also be lost, if the library couldn’t get a new copy). Oh, and that book series that disappeared from my library? I found it on Paperback Swap, so now I can read it to my hearts content.