Hoarding is not collection development
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Making a Collection Count

Practical Librarian

This is the place that we put more serious discussions of librarianship.

Dealing With the Staff Hoarder

book stackHolly and I are fond of telling people in our presentations that every library has at least one hoarder on staff. The punchline is, if you say no, then it probably is you.  Without fail, at every presentation we have given, there is someone who wants to talk about a fellow staff member that is hell bent on saving everything for the coming library apocalypse or for that elusive patron that “might need it.”

I am using the term hoarder loosely.  I am talking about the office pack rat or collector. If you think your library has a problem that needs some clinical intervention, this would be a job for management and a qualified mental health professional. Obviously, this is a delicate and serious issue and it should be treated as such. For the rest of us, here are some strategies that you can try.

Develop some standards and general guidelines

I work in a small library, so weeding often becomes brutal. No space means difficult choices. Remember, you might not be the only decision maker, so make sure there are some agreed-upon general rules. How many circs per year is enough to warrant keeping a particular book? What books are worth replacing? Even before a single book is weeded, have a discussion and reiterate your policies and procedures. Keep those standards fresh in everyone’s mind.

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The Problem of Oversized Books

oversizeMany of my posts start off with a strong opinion. Here is today’s: I HATE OVERSIZE BOOKS! Coffee table books belong on coffee tables. There, I’ve said it. Well…I don’t hate oversize books themselves. They’re gorgeous. What I hate is the problems they cause when casually interspersed in regular non-fiction collections in public libraries.

As I was weeding the 500s, I found a lot of oversize books: huge books with color photos of the animals of the African safari, enormous tomes of pictures of ocean life, ginormous volumes of rain forest photography, and a gigundus atlas of the constellations in the night sky. Really beautiful books. Really, really, really in the way. My library doesn’t have a separate section for oversize books, so they get piled on the bottom shelf closest to where they would have fit numerically. In trying to shift the books off of the top shelves of the section, I needed to use those bottom shelves. I couldn’t forfeit an entire shelf, or even half a shelf, for one large book that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Here’s the other thing: I checked the circulation statistics on most of them, and they don’t circulate very well. People may browse them in-house, but they aren’t lugging them home.

Not to mention the cost. Oversize books are expensive! Worth every penny, for what they are, but when given the choice between an oversize book and one that fits nicely on the shelf with the same information in it, I’ll take the small one 9 times out of 10.

There are a few exceptions where oversize books are OK in public libraries:

1. Art books. They don’t come any other way, so you don’t really have a choice. The whole point of art books is to see the art in all its glorious detail.

2. Atlases. Again, they just come in huge sizes. Atlas stands are a thing of beauty because you can keep atlases separate from regular-sized books.

3. Where there is a section devoted to oversized books where they don’t get in the way of all the other, regular-sized books. That comes with its own set of issues. Patrons have to know to go to that section or risk missing out on the glorious books it holds, for one thing.

Here are some ideas I have on what to do with these oversize books.

1. They aren’t circulating, so taking them away from their current location probably won’t hurt the statistics any. How about scattering them around the library on end tables, displays, and coffee tables? They’re more likely to be browsed that way, at least.

2. Loan them to nursing homes and waiting rooms around the community. The library where I used to work had an outreach program called “Read While You Wait.” They took donated paperbacks to waiting rooms and put stickers on them with the library name. People could start reading them while waiting, and then just take the book home to finish. If they wanted to return the book to the library – great. If not, they could just keep it. The library replenished the pile every now and then. Since oversize books are not likely to be carried home (too big!!), they would make great “Read While You Wait” books. Nursing home residents, senior center members, coffee shop loiterers – anywhere people hang out – are good places for an outreach collection of oversize books.

3. If you had space, you could put those tall, skinny carts at the ends of some of the non-fiction rows and fill the carts with oversize books. This is sort of an impromptu, mobile solution to a separate oversize section. It would get the oversize books out of the regular non-fiction section (where they stick out into the aisles, tripping people) and make them more noticeable by being at the forefront of several rows.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Oversize books are beautiful, but they just don’t work well when interfiled with regular-sized books. I avoid buying them unless they are so special, so irreplaceable, and so unique that we simply must have them. In other words, rarely.



Originally published at http://hhibner.blogspot.com/2011/08/oversized-books.html on 8/10/2011.

Image creative commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/14707502815

Time of death….

This was written when I was a little more than irritated about the umpteenth time I have seen more tape than book. The “rescue at all costs” a 5 dollar paperback is one of my top library peeves (right after old career books, sitting in a meeting that never ends, jammed printers and sales calls when I am at the desk.) 

Wilderness Gear You Can Make Yourself

The above picture cannot do this particular book justice. The cover was falling off and pages were falling out and there is more tape than book. At what point did the library decide enough is enough?

The content looks good, although dated. I have no doubt that this book was well used in its 40 plus years of service. Frankly it is an interesting topic and I know it would do well in my community. That said, assuming reasonable circulation numbers, this book probably traveled through quite a few hands over the last 40 years and only now, in 2016, it is a “problem?” I’d be willing to bet that many people have noticed this book’s obvious wear. I have had patrons make me look at a stray pencil mark in a book and make me swear that I won’t blame them for the damage. Seriously.

Paperbacks are not “forever” books. They have a short life span. At some point, you just have to let them die in a dignified manner. Taping and repairing a book (especially a paperback) should be done with an eye toward cost-benefit. Putting a couple of dollars worth of tape and using staff time on a dying book is not efficient. Even the quickest repair, done by a volunteer, is ultimately going to be more expensive than the cost of the book.

How many humans touched this book in the last 40 years and didn’t notice the yellowing tape and ragged edges? I know this didn’t happen in a single use. Human intervention is an essential part of weeding. As much as I love charts and reports, ultimately eyes on an actual item and walking the stacks is just as important as an ILS report. All staff need to understand the definition of “damaged,” and make sure items that cannot be saved are given a proper goodbye. I have a feeling that staff kept saying its “good enough” and did very least they could do to avoid paperwork, debates over condition, etc.

Be ready and clear with standards in your library so that there is no debate on a books “time of death”. Clear process and procedure as well as empowering all staff to act on damaged materials is essential to a clean and happy library collection. Don’t let those paperback stay on life support forever. It’s not worth it.