Books & weedingIf you, like me, work in a system with a pretty healthy materials budget and a good supply of new books coming in regularly, you may find yourself with lots of books clogging up the children’s shelves that aren’t circulating. And even if you don’t have a big budget and you don’t weed, the same thing will happen. Not all books that get good reviews appeal to kids, and books go out of style. And some librarians can’t bear to throw books out because they got a good review, or because someone “might” come in and ask for them.

I’ve worked for several libraries in which administrators have had to “persuade,” one way or another, certain staff people to weed. These folks are so reluctant to toss books that haven’t circulated that the shelves grow jammed, the bookends must be removed, and someone who wants a book on those shelves has to – (grip with your fingernails and pull) unh, unh – yank it out forcibly.

Having to do that is no fun, and – what’s really important (sarcasm-tinged smile) – it lowers your circ numbers.

This post is inspired by a discussion that’s been going on on PUBYAC about the discomforts of weeding a J collection. Lisa Watson of the Flat River Community Library of Greenville, MI discovered independently something that researchers have long known – that books on the bottom shelves don’t circulate as well as books on eye level do.

Paula Lefkowitz of the Parsippany-Troy Hills (NJ) Public Library System responded:

And books at the end of the alphabet don’t get checked out as often as those at the beginning. And when the lighting is better, circ is better. I saw recently that others do what I do. I take books that haven’t circulated recently but with no obvious reason for their lack of circulation (bad covers, old, etc.) and place them in “Purgatory” – a display labeled “Have You Read These?” in a really good location. If they don’t go after a month or so and there’s no compelling reason to keep them, they’re out. But generally whatever I put on the
display goes immediately!

I’ve done that kind of display of worthwhile but slow-moving items, too. (I call it “The Librarian Recommends,” & almost everything I put there, cover out, ends up circulating.) If a J fiction book hasn’t circulated in a year, it’s gone. And country and state report books in the 900s? They’re gone after 10 years on the shelf, no matter how many times they’ve circ’ed.

But the research shows that when you clear off the dead wood, the live stuff circulates all the more. The emptier the shelves are, the more users think, “Hey – there must be a reason these shelves are so empty. I’d better check it out.” So remember to weed weekly, or at least regularly.