During our Book Selection meeting this past week the topic of weeding our collections came up as a result of someone complaining to either a City Council member or directly to City Hall that the library was throwing away what appeared to them as perfectly good books.
Believe me - we never lightly discard books when they can be an asset to our collections. In turn, we do not add books just because they are donated to us. This is particularly true when it comes to out-dated specialized college text books.
I don't know the volume of donations or the number of books that are withdrawn at each of our libraries, but I can give you some statistics on the donations that come through our branch. What the public sees on our sale shelves is a combination of donations and withdrawals from our collection.
We do put some books in the recycle bins because they are, frankly, too tattered or dirty to handle or the contents are outdated and could be considered bad for someone's health or detrimental for legal or technical advice.
On those occasions that books that appear as good as new show up on the sale shelf, you can rest assured that we have sufficient copies to meet the needs of our public and, if it is a bestseller author, we often have a good copy in reserve in case we have to replace our copy. None of us have the space to keep reserve copies of every book that comes through our hands.
During the past six months, I have added 1,110 books to our honor book collection, 1,016 books to the Sale Shelf and passed on 149 books to other branches just from donations. I have probably set aside close to 300 books in the last six months to be added or used as replacements for books in poor condition. Frankly I am out of room for storing all the books I want to add or replace.
The reason we haven't been able to add our donations to our collections is a result of cataloguing the 30,000-plus books for the Dr. Clotilde P. Garcia library during the last two or three years. The large number of books being adding has been an overwhelming feat during this period for the cataloguing department and they are just now beginning the see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When you see our shelves, especially in the adult fiction without bookends, you know we are hurting for space once again. We have only been in our new building for two-and-a-half years and we are running out of room once again in the adult area. I have been attempting to do some serious weeding in the non-fiction section during the past six months.
Last week I tackled the audiotapes and books on tape. This is one of highest circulating sections and we are fast outgrowing the space we have.
The criteria for weeding a library is based on physical condition, relevance of the subject, currency of the information and whether it has circulated within a certain number of years. In terms of media, some libraries automatically discard audiotapes or CDs after a certain number of circulations, i.e. 50 or 100.
The rationale is that by that time they are twisted or scratched and result in poor listening. I weeded those items that had not circulated in the last three to four years, with the exception of a few classics that could relate to required reading for students or were or were a part of a series.
One thing I found that confirmed what I'd long thought is that our listeners do not check out abridged (condensed) book on type or CD, especially when they are mysteries or thrillers.
I am also attempting to eliminate duplicates of audiotapes when I have CDs of the same title. Videos will be the next section to be weeded. We are getting more DVD's of classic movies, and are rarely buying or adding VHS movies to our collections. We still have one of the largest and highest circulating collections in the system, but poor circulating movies will end up on the sale shelves, as will those that we have as a DVD.
When we receive donations, the staff and I tell the donors that I first look to see if the book is one we need for the collection because it is new, or would fill a gap in a series or replace a book in poor condition. If it is not needed here I check the holdings of all the other branches to see if their copy is missing or lost or if they have that author but not that title.
If it is a paperback in good condition and is not set aside for adding or replacing a copy, I add it to the honors collections. If not needed for honors, then it goes on the sale shelf. I do send some books to AAUW (American Association of University Women) that are not suited for our collections, since they can sell them for more money in their new book nook at the Neyland Library.
They in turn donate money to our library system for the purchase of books or other special purchases.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of how and why we discard books.
Lynda Whitton is the branch manager for the Northwest Branch Library in Corpus Christi. Readers may contact her at (361) 241-9329.