In my last post, I mentioned that I hate shelving. The upside, besides nice, neat shelves with books that are findable is that it’s a great way to look at your collection, particularly if there’s a research project ongoing (inventory is another great tool, and if you’re not doing an annual inventory, shame on you!). The collections at three of the four schools I’ve worked at have been… neglected. There are many wonderful books on the shelves, or they would be wonderful if we were still in the 1980s (or an earlier decade).
At my last school, there were a number of books published in the late teens-early 20s of the last century. Now, that part of the collection should be an automatic “weed” right? Not so fast there! The 11th grade history class was entitled “The Twentieth Century World” and the initial focus is on the Treaty of Versailles, which essentially sets up the entire political world we now inhabit, and those books? They were written by people who were at the talks, crafting the treaty. So while in the 90s or 80s those may have seemed outdated, by the early 00s, they were primary source materials.
Weeding, it’s tricky!
I saw this tweet a while ago,
and immediately thought, “oh my! wouldn’t that be nice…” The reality is that in a school, you can’t be quite that draconian. You can do what we’re doing, which is replacing old versions of books like poetry – books we need, but are just so old the students don’t want to use them – and really evaluating the history and social sciences selections. We did a massive weed of the literary criticism (no longer used) and the science collection already, which dropped about 6,000 volumes from our shelves. My guess? We’ll probably weed another 3-4,000 this year. And we’re using Thrift Books to help ease the guilt of getting rid of some of these books.
Without doing shelving, I wouldn’t really be looking at the books that we have, comparing what’s being used for research and what’s still sitting there – too old, too decrepit or just too out-of-date. So there is an upside… maybe.