|Queen Anne's Lace, one of my favorite weeds.|
(Picture from Jeffrey S. Pippen)
Simply put, collection development means both adding to and subtracting from a library's collection. That's why calling this activity weeding is so appropriate: both adding and subtracting are necessary in gardening and in collection development. I'm not 100% sure why, but I find weeding more satisfying than any other facet of collection development. Perhaps it's to do with how well I know a section after weeding, or maybe it's the satisfaction of having a physically attractive collection when I'm done. I know there are other librarians who agree with me, but it still seems like we don't weed enough.
I've done a lot of weeding in my career (although not as much as I'd like), and I've come to realize that the process is halfway between an art and a science. There are some clearly defined steps I take, but there's always the chance of something undefinable getting in the mix. Further, how I approach weeding a fiction collection is a bit different from how I approach weeding a science collection. To be truthful, it's not an easy process to describe, but there are some general things I always consider:
- The physical book. This starts with a general browse of a section. If a book catches my attention, I pull it off the shelf to examine it more closely. I consider whether or not I was able to read the title on the spine, check the strength of the binding, look for markings and other damage, etc.
- If a book is in poor condition but I still want to keep it, the book might get replaced or rebound, depending on costs, availability, and the extent of the damage.
- If I'm at all unsure about a book's importance, I check with the faculty in the relevant department(s).
- Multiple copies of a novel are fine if I know someone teaches that particular author. For instance, we have multiple copies of Pride and Prejudice because we have an Austen scholar on campus. Similarly, we have more books about the literature of medicine than you'd expect of a library this size, but Biomedical Humanities is one of our majors.
- This is not a strict rule. I've kept books where there are 50+ other copies in our consortium if it circulates a lot.
The way I've described it here makes it seem like a linear process, which it isn't. Not really. Sometimes I start with a list of books that haven't circulated much, or with a book that's about to be shelved that catches my attention. The most important part of the process is starting it. After all, Seneca spoke the truth when he said, "It does not matter how many books you may have, but whether they are good or not.”
What about you? How do you feel about weeding?