Hurdles to Weeding

hurdles and a kid

Here at ALB we feature a book each day. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re offensive. Often, we exaggerate the “awful” factor to make a point. Mary and I have short attention spans and get bored easily, so we like to add humor to make our daily collection quality lesson more fun. We make snide and sarcastic comments: Weed it! Upgrade it! What are you thinking? Are you lazy or just stupid?

We received an email recently from a reader who brought up an excellent point that we haven’t talked about before outside of our formal presentations and writings (aka the “street cred” side of ALB!) She said:

“Some of us in this profession have inherited institutions where the collection has never been weeded, or done lightly so. Some of us serve in municipalities where disposing of even a paperback means paperwork and city councils and procurement officers who are unresponsive. Some librarians face Friends and Trustees who aren’t involved, don’t run book sales, are mongers of the “save ALL the books” mentalities. Many professionals, including myself, have instituted aggressive weeding plans but it is not quite as simple as pulling books off of the shelf, removing it from the system and dumping it in the recycling bin as you well know.”

That might be the most accurate comment we’ve ever received. It’s absolutely true. While we are clearly insensitive in our “good grief, just weed it!” comments on our daily posts, we do understand that there are real barriers to weeding sometimes. Our intention, once again, is to exaggerate the awfulness and give you all a daily laugh while hopefully at least making a point that materials do need to be looked at in libraries in order to stay relevant. In many ways, we are preaching to the choir, since many (most?) of our regular readers “get it” and are as obsessed with collection quality as we are.

But, for SURE there are barriers! We’ve heard stories from people who weed surreptitiously, under cover of night, a few books at a time taken HOME in their own cars to their own recycle bins to avoid controversy at work. We’ve heard of “accidental” coffee spills ruining books that admins won’t allow to be weeded. We do not condone those behaviors, but they happen.

So, dear readers, we are begging your indulgence. The daily posts are for fun and are likely to be more snarky than helpful. We created this Practical Librarian section of the site to explore the more serious sides of things. To that end, stay tuned for a post with actual advice on how to get the reluctant weeders in our lives to relax and trust us to do the job we spent thousands and thousands of dollars on a Masters degree to learn to do carefully and effectively.


Photo via creative commons:


    1. Good idea! I’ll stick it in the links section in the left sidebar of our home page.

  1. A fellow school librarian worked in a tiny library with burgeoning shelves of outdated, uncirculating materials. Where do you shelve new, updated, popular titles? In neat piles on the floor? She weeded and the school board objected to disposing of the dregs that weren’t even palatable as freebies. They decided to store the books indefinitely. Who knows–they may still be in storage! At least the library shelves looked fresh and appealing and circulation increased.

    1. “Guiltily”, I just never told my admin of my weeding. When I first started I wasn’t given guidelines or “rules” for our districts policies and procedures, so I more or less made them up as I went along. In my defense! The books I weeded fell into one of two 2 criteria (and sometimes were in both):
      1. Weren’t even cataloged
      2. Were in such poor condition they should’ve been chucked rather than culled into my library
      But because he’s a pretty cool kat, I’m just going to assume he would’ve been completely chilled about what I was doing. It was for the betterment of the library’s stats #Iregretnothing

  2. I suggest you solicit essays from submitters about their weeding, but written towards nonlibrarians, especially the kind that complain about weeds. Reading about how bad a reputation their library got from having so many macrame books that you couldn’t pull one out without the entire shelf coming might revise some of the complaints others will have, who see this blog.

  3. I recently had my position in a high school library cut (my last year at the school I was moved to the main office) and the last time I visited I would estimate that 80% of the collection is new from when I started there 13 years ago. The shelves are half to 3/4 full, with about half of the original shelving units gone. The current librarian just weeded 6 book carts full of books and gave the majority of the art books to the School’s Art Department to shelve in their classrooms. The library is bright, welcoming and always full of kids and circulation is up every year. Weed, weed, weed and actually develop a collection that is relevant and meant to be used. And I miss my old job.

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