I'm thinking about dust today. More specifically, I'm thinking about the layer of dust that gathers on a book that has been sitting on a library's shelf for a long time. Why am I thinking about dust? I'm contemplating my first weeding project at my new library: the reference section.
Now, I've talked about weeding before, and those rules definitely enter into my decisions with a reference collection, but there are other factors to consider. Further, unless you've been careful to track use for a while, there's no real way to know how many times a book has been used. Besides, despite the title of this post, if you have a good cleaning staff then you can't even judge by the layer of dust.
So, what do I look for? Here's a quick list for you, in no particular order:
- Age of the book. With titles like The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature or Current Biography Yearbook, so long as you have room, age isn't as important. With those, I'm as (if not more) likely to use the older volumes as the newer ones. With a general encyclopedia, however, the book is almost out of date by the time the publisher is finished printing it.
- Needs of the community. I have a psychology department, so I need to keep our copy of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision, despite its age. At least until the 5th edition comes out later this year. The fifth edition of MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, on the other hand, is toast - the seventh edition came out in 2009.
- The nature of the book. Does it really belong in the reference collection? Or would it be a better fit for your circulating collection? For instance, a book about copyright from 1978 is embarrassing in reference, so I transferred it to the main collection since there's a media studies class that covers the topic.
- Is print the best format? No, everything isn't "online," but sometimes an electronic resource presents a better format for the needs of your community. I still miss the print edition of the The Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors - it made browsing so easy. On the other hand, biographical dictionaries and general encyclopedias are much easier to search online.
Beyond all the factors that must be considered, this is going to be difficult because I have a forever long To Do list right now. Finding time for weeding is important, though, since I have plans for the space I'll be clearing.
How about you? If you have weeding experience, is there some factor you consider with reference books that I haven't mentioned?