Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weeding the Printed Books

Book stacks on the 2nd floor

In recent weeks, because the library instruction room has been reserved for something else, I've been helping with a big weeding project. An entire floor of shelves needs to be looked over in order to make more room for group study tables. The experience has reminded me of several things about collection management:
  • Discarding books is difficult, in that it's time-consuming and brain-sucking, not to mention dusty work. It's the type of task that can make librarians and people who work with books embrace e-books. It's much easier to let ebrary (or amazon, or whomever) manage the electronic titles and bring problems to their attention, rather than having to diligently perform inventory of the stacks ourselves. Right? (Yes, that is tongue-in-cheek.)
  • Maybe I'm overestimating the importance of the printed collection, but with every decision I feel personally responsible for the historical record -- particularly as I'm working mainly in the D section. As a librarian, I was trained to do this, and as a rational, educated person I feel equipped to do this, but the necessary individuality of the task, as well as the need for haste, makes me a bit uncomfortable. Don't worry, I am being supervised, but my tendency is to linger over every title and weigh each one very carefully. This does not translate into an efficient process. I understand that a community college library is not a research library, and that our collection has never had the depth one might expect from a full university library, but the process still pains me. And when perusing the great events of European history, for example, the present-day desire to push them aside to make room for student seating seems somewhat frivolous.  
  • Even though I trim using tweezers rather than a machete (multiples copies and poor condition are my most common reasons for deciding to discard something), I still find it really hard to get rid of something. I'll be welcoming next week, which is jam-packed with classes, with something like relief.

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