Why Libraries Weed

Many times, when people hear that I, as a librarian, am getting rid of books in the library, they are taken aback.

“How can you get rid of books, you work in a library?”

“Are you going to burn them?”

“What if someone needs them?”

Et cetera, et cetera.

And while it may seem odd that a librarian is getting rid of library books, it is a necessary part of the job. Sometimes books lose value. That is to say, books are printed, information changes/progresses, and the book becomes obsolete. Or sometimes cultural tastes change and what was once popular in the 50’s is no longer relevant in the present.

Part of the library’s job is to continually weed and update the collection to reflect the needs of the present day patron. So there is that.

The purpose of this post, though, is to share some collection statistics with you. These numbers help me better understand what makes up the OVS collection and reinforces my sometimes aggressive approach to weeding.

I recently ran our collection through two different analysis programs:

follett mackin

What these reports do is analyze a library’s collection through its catalog of books. It then tallies the number of items, the Dewey number, publishing date, and other information and then breaks your collection down. It will tell you the average age of a book in the library, how many books are in a particular subject, what is considered out of date, and more.

Both analysis’ are basically the same, so let me share some information about the OVS Library at the Upper Campus:

Number of items cataloged: 3,779
Estimated items per student: 33.62
Average age of a library book: 1971

Those are the big overarching numbers. Our books per student is excellent (20 per student is average), but when those books average 40+ years old, that raises an eyebrow. We are working on that, though. Believe me, we are working on that through weeding and buying new books.

Looking further, the analysis shows that Geography & History make up nearly 1/3 of the total collection with 1,116 items. The average age, though, is 1968. However, this is not as problematic as it initially appears. When it comes to history and literature books, information does not change as much as say, books on technology or science. Still, we can and will freshen up that part of the collection.

Our fiction collection is small, with only 184 cataloged books. This is slightly misleading because there are a number of books that haven’t been cataloged. Either way, the average age of a fiction book is 1976. Again, this number is not as bad as it looks. A copy of the classic Animal Farm published in 1973 is still the same piece of literature as it is published today. However, there are quite a few books that are on the older side that just aren’t popular any longer. This happens. People’s tastes change. The fiction collection, to me, is the key to this library.  A lot of non-fiction material can be accessed online and through databases. Fiction, though, is the key to becoming a lifelong reader and what I am going to really try and push here at OVS. It has to reflect the tastes of the students and staff. It has to be engaging, entertaining, and well-written. I want kids to become avid readers and to take that with them into adulthood.

If you are interested in any other statistics, feel free to email me (cbrough@ovs.org).

 

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