Weeding more than the books

ballet dancerThe other day I was looking at a bunch of books that teach dancing. Dance instruction books were hardly jumping off the shelves. There could be a quite a few reasons for this. I know that disco dancing isn’t as popular as it once was. Obviously, we need an upgrade to the dance instruction books.

But wait, is it really about the books? Is a book the best medium to teach dancing?  Does a book convey movement as well as a medium such as video?  Learning to dance from a book might not be the best option.

Weeding is about getting rid of the old and obsolete and upgrading or replacing with something more relevant. We need to expand the definition to include not just a title, but the medium as well. More than once I have heard librarians say “but we need to get a book as well.” I get it. Traditional books often take the default position for all things library. That’s not necessarily wrong, but is it always appropriate?

Generally, libraries are good about embracing a new idea. Technology and services have changed dramatically since I began library service.  A patron’s wants and needs have changed as well. At its core, libraries are about helping people consume information, regardless of the medium.

I have run into my fair share of librarians that feel that a library must do and have certain materials and programs in place or it isn’t a real library. In my humble opinion, a library is a collection of information for the public to consume. Delivering that information is the essential job function of the librarian. Our job is to help folks navigate this insanely large, unwieldy pile of information and get our people what they need.

In order to be effective, everything in a library from titles in a collection, programs, services, and procedures are actually serving the library’s mission. Like in weeding, it is often difficult to part with long standing traditions or expectations of what a library should be doing.

A library’s mission statement isn’t just a catchy slogan. The library’s mission statement should be the guiding force. Everything we do from selecting a book, presenting a program, to answering the phone should be done with this mission in mind. Is this [procedure, medium, program, process] serving the mission?


  1. As someone who does ballroom dancing, I would not consider books a good way to learn. Books can’t give you instant feedback if you mess up a step or your frame’s wrong. I think the point of this post overall is great!

  2. Your post takes me back to the early 1980’s when video was new. There was a man who’d created a series of learn-to-ballroom-dance videos. He sold them by personal calls on libraries. At that time my office was tucked in a small room off the stacks [gee, I can remember the yellow walls, the old metal bookcase, the door that connected the office to the cataloging dept….if I remember any more I will be able to recall the smell…] Anyway, he came into my office, *shut the door,* and sat in the visitor chair. Did I say it was a very small room? And the connecting door was also shut. I did NOT want to be ALONE in my SMALL office with a man I had never seen. Especially one so intent on selling me videos. [In retrospect I think he was nervous, not a natural salesman, but determined to show that he had a good product.] I did NOT buy the videos, but when I took a new job halfway across the country they had the complete set.

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