Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding
In honor of National Library Week, I spent a few afternoons weeding the library at work. As both an archivist and a librarian, I balance the duties of each role. Part of me wants to preserve any and all things, while the other part sees the practicality of creating a user-centered collection of relevant, up-to-date titles. My continuous development as a well-rounded and highly-skilled information professional is to be flexible and apply the right expertise to a specific project.
Weeding a library is a sensitive subject because it is often misunderstood by patrons. The thought of donating or throwing away books brings Fahrenheit 451 to mind. However, libraries should regularly be weeded for a variety of reasons:
1. Books that contain inaccurate or dated information or are old, moldy, or damaged do a disservice to patrons.
2. Libraries are physical places with limited room which should be devoted to the best, most useful items.
3. Patrons will be able to find materials easier. No one wants to dig through crowded shelves.
4. Libraries are more appealing when they contain smaller, neater collections in good condition. Multiple studies have shown how circulation increases when the shelves look nicer with less books on them.
5. Smaller, but higher quality, collections save money. Funding is not wasted on maintaining unusable books.
6. The library's reputation as a reliable and up-to-date resource will continue, building trust in its usefulness.
The CREW (Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding) method is a library standard for de-accessioning. It provides guidelines on weeding, based on three figures. The first figure refers to the years since the book's latest copyright date; the second figure refers to the years since its last recorded circulation. The third refers to negative factors called MUSTIE:
Ugly, beyond mending/rebinding
Superseded by a new edition or a better book
Irrelevant to the needs and interests of patrons
May be obtained Elsewhere
Local history items, for example, are never weeded, while almanacs have a 2/X/MUSTIE guideline because they are not useful after two years, no matter their circulation (hence, the "X").
My organization preserves architecture globally, and our collection is divided into relevant themes and geographic areas. A majority of the items I weeded were yellowed, tattered paperbacks from the 1960s and 70s. I found some real head-scratchers, though. No wonder my colleagues were having problems browsing, when they had to dig through these "gems":
Wild Pigs of the United States: Their History, Morphology, and Current Status, published in 1991
A geography textbook from the 1950s
Children's books about indigenous Mexicans, published in the 1970s
A Freemasons book that was both water-damaged and filled with black mold
A Prince Charles biography from the early 1980s
National monument guidebooks from the late 70s to the mid-80s
Legal guides from the early 1980s
I only point out these examples to illustrate that even the best library needs to be reviewed, evaluated, and weeded on a regular schedule to remain relevant.
Read more about Weeding at these sites:
The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-Sized Public Libraries from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
SUNLINK Weed of the Month, created for Florida’s K-12 School Library Media specialists with guidelines and suggestions for weeding their collections and adding quality materials.
Weeding the Collection, an online tutorial developed by the Idaho State Library