Recently I have been weeding our fiction section. And I have been quite brutal.
I began by carefully removing the books that had not been read for a while according to neatly printed borrowing statistics. Then I moved on to throwing out the items that looked like they were about to fall apart. Getting caught up in a weeding frenzy, I next began to remove the books that still had handwritten spine labels (because these began to be printed at least eight years ago). These were soon followed by books that just did not look that great anymore.
Soon I had a table covered in stacks of books and that is when it hit me. I am part of the problem.
While I can blame the large number of books sitting on that table that had never been read on the purchasing choices of previous librarians; after six years, I can no longer pretend that the choices that I make do not matter. Next year, some of the books that come off the shelves will be books I have bought. Tax payer dollars that I have spent, trying to encourage the students at my school to read. So why is this a problem?
Recently, two Year 10 boys, who had been sent over to find something to read, made the comment that there are too many books in our library. I found this an interesting comment and one I could not ignore. Now these two boys have only been at our school for about 18 months, so they do not know that when I started there were actually about 4,000 more books in our collection – roughly a third bigger than it is now. Yet, in their eyes, it is still “too big”. There is too much choice for them and it makes it difficult for them to find the titles or authors that they are looking for.
While I have worked hard to reduce the number of physical items on our shelves, I am still part of the problem because I am responsible for what is being brought in. Part of why I chose to become a school librarian is that I love books. And the opportunity to buy them with someone else’s money? Well, that was just too good to ignore!
Unfortunately, I get a little too excited when faced with boxes of new titles. When our local bookseller comes to see me with a load of new books, I get carried away in the moment and don’t always make the best buying decisions. I am better with the national book reps I see, I am able to make cold, rational decisions about what will actually be used by the students. But when it is our local seller, we both get caught up in the excitement of talking books and soon I find myself cataloguing books, shaking my head, with thoughts of “What was I thinking?”. So, yeah, I am part of the problem.
To remedy this I have created a flow chart to help clarify what I should be bringing in to our fiction collection. I want to make sure that I am buying the books that will be read, enjoyed or found useful. I want to make sure that I am using the money I am given wisely. And I want to make sure that, in five years time, the books that are being weeded have at least been read once and do not represent money down the drain. I want it to be hard to see these books leave the collection – just as it was hard for them to get in.
Now, let me at the non-fiction collection!