Ingram Blog

How Collection Weeding Makes a Better World

By: Tricia Racke Bengel
 In my news feed every morning is the latest entry from the website Awful Library Books: Hoarding is not Collection Development.I usually chuckle to myself, metaphorically shrug my shoulders and then go on with my day. But, this morning, I spent a little more time and actually clicked through to the site. After spending a few more minutes on the site, I was happy to see that beyond the humor, the site was full of great information on how and why we should weed. There was also a link to a 2016 book published by PLA for the Quick Reads for Busy Librarians series, straightforwardly called,Weeding Manual.

What It’s Like to Actively Weed Your Collection

All this to say, yesterday, I had the privilege of moderating a webinar on weeding and how Ingram customers can partner with a company called Better World Books (BWB) to get rid of their discarded materials and donations in exchange for a percentage of sales back in the form of credits to purchase new items. David Ebrite, Director of Sales and Strategic Partnerships with BWB, shared with us how their socially conscious company works with over 4,000 library partners to collect books and sell them or donate them to other organizations around the world. So far, BWB has taken in over 250 million books with zero going to landfills.

Weeding Success’

To highlight two success stories and the practicalities of what a partnership with BWB looks like, two library directors with two very different methods of working with BWB joined us. Carrie Herrman, Director of the Boone County Public Library in Northern KY and Michael Perry, County Librarian of Siskiyou in the far north of California took part in the discussion with us to share how their libraries weed and dispose of their unwanted materials.

Carrie runs a very sophisticated weeding program and has centralized their deaccessioning program so that everyone who works for the system is involved and expectations are set during each employee’s new hire orientations. With their discipline, they are able to cycle through every bit of the collection each year so that there are no subject areas or material types that go more than 12 months without a review. In addition to their partnership with BWB, they have local books sales and a huge giveaway for area educators periodically.

Michael’s organization is just as aggressive as Carrie’s and utilizes the Friends group to organize and pack up anything they don’t want for their local sales to go to BWB. Michael shared an astonishing figure with us-- he has shipped the equivalent of his entire current library collection to BWB in the last five years.

Why You Should Weed Your Collection

Most of the articles I read about weeding drag out the old fear of getting push back about weeding. Consequently, many of us spend a lot of time crafting rationales and explanations in case we are ever faced with a patron or local official raising concerns about throwing out library books. Neither of these two librarians expressed any shyness in telling everyone what they are doing. Carrie’s staff wrote an article about their weeding program in their local blog and Michael said something very simple and smart during the webinar. Paraphrasing him, he said “they are just books, I can always buy another copy of a classic if it is needed after we have gotten rid of it. And, a new book with a current cover and fresh pages will probably circulate better than the old one that was not.”

I love learning from smart librarians and enjoyed the conversation with them immensely.

Unfortunately, since we had only an hour, we could only scratch the surface of how much impact their aggressive weeding has on their circulation figures, their ability to flexibly use their spaces as needs change, and the confidence they have that their patrons won’t use old information when conducting research on topics of a timely nature. I remember once pulling We Will Go to the Moon One Day and culturally inappropriate items off of shelves. Those types of incidences undermine our credibility as valued information resources.

We all need to be vigilant that we are not offering materials to patrons that are out of date, show Pluto as still a planet, or that rock polyester pantsuits on the front cover.

I hope to continue the conversation of the collection development lifecycle in future and am really glad we started off with weeding. I think these two librarians showed that it is equally as important as good collection development and acquisitions.

To watch the webinar or find more resources about Better World Books and weeding, register now and watch on-demand at your convenience here

So, in parting, happy weeding and I hope you share your best, uh, I mean worst find with Awful Library Books.

Don't miss Tricia's webinar wrap-up on Floating Collections: How it Can Work in A Public Library.

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