Every librarian knows that weeding makes a collection stronger. I know the previous librarian did a fantastic job weeding – in two years, she improved the age of the collection twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!!! That’s pretty amazing. I’ve done a bit since I started in July, but it’s not always easy. (Well, sometimes it is – the 600-page biography of Lyndon Johnson from 1980 that likely hasn’t been checked out since 1993, for example.) I think that since the books have moved out to the regular library space (long story) and I’ve done the weeding I have, it looks fantastic. Before, in the cave, I didn’t think it was a good collection. Out here, with some more weed-worthy books out, any student could find a book they want here – and the new books aren’t even out yet. It will only get better!
But getting there can be arduous. For instance, James Herriot’s book, Every Living Thing. It’s 300 pages, is certainly a classic in adult literature, perfectly appropriate for teens, but it’s never checked out here, and it looks like it’s been here decades. There’s A Midwife’s Tale which won the Pulitzer Prize. I’m sure it’d be an interesting story. But it’s 400 pages, all text with maybe two maps included for illustrations, and it’s just not jumping off the shelves at a high school (apparently never checked out either).
Then there’s the The History of Iowa, a four-volume set. It was published in 1903. It’s in remarkable condition for being over a hundred years old, but that may be because it hasn’t checked out in my lifetime. Literally. Three of the four volumes, anyway, were last checked out in June 1970. (One checked out in 1978. Better save that one!) But shouldn’t we have a history of Iowa book? This surely goes into early history in great detail. There’s a seven-volume set on George Washington, and a six-volume set by Carl Sandburg on Abraham Lincoln. (Does it matter that we have no other books on Washington? Probably should get one.) Surely these are important books in history, certainly appropriate for an academic library, but definitely not a school library. Then why is it so hard to set those aside?
I remember well what my Collections professor said – the quality of your collection tells your students what you think of them. If you have crap, you’re saying they deserve crap. Of course I get rid of crap, but what about quality history, just books that junior high and high school students won’t read?