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Weeding Your Library Collection? You Might Want to Notify the Public

Updated on October 6, 2011

Library collections change over the years. Whether it occurs on a regular basis or perhaps whenever one of the staff has time to do it, titles are taken off of the shelves to make room for the new (or just to get rid of materials that aren't current or circulating anymore). Usually these materials end up on a cart in the lobby selling for under a dollar - well, maybe in the old days they did. Some libraries have opened up shops for this purpose as well as to sell items that were donated to them. Others are forced to throw out their unwanted titles, something that true librarians and book-lovers do not want to do. Items that don't sell may also be destined for the dump if some other organization doesn't take them as a donation. How can we make sure more of these titles find good homes?

Have you ever been in a situation where you've checked a book out of the library many times in the past but when you go to look for it again it's no longer on the shelf or in the catalog? While you stand there wondering when and why they could have gotten rid of it, it dawns on you that they must have put it in the cart to be sold without you finding out about it. Sadly, if it is not still downstairs sitting on that cart or shelf, you have missed your opportunity to get it for yourself again (and if they did throw it out, it's illegal to go Dumpster-diving to try and find it, but that takes devotion and then some). Wouldn't it be great if libraries put out a list of titles they are removing from their collection so that people who have checked out a certain title multiple times in the past and want to read it again can buy it from them? That would be so much more convenient than periodically browsing the store shelves or lobby carts looking for a specific one that you want.

While this plan may seem ideal for wistful patrons looking to hold onto their history, it does have a downside. For instance, what if more than one person checked out a certain title, and once it was removed there are more people who want it than there are copies to go around? I suppose that would be true of any given store in the first place, except for the fact that this one won't be getting any new orders in. Still, an advanced notification posted on a library's web site or in its monthly newsletter would probably do less harm than good. The problem with library stores is that only the items that are still in the library's collection appear in the searchable online catalog. Unless a new category is added to include weeded books set aside for paying customers (or a list is posted and kept updated, depending on which method is easier to maintain), library patrons will spend more time than they have to browsing for specific titles. In the end, what better way to drum up business in this struggling economy than to advertise precisely what you've got to offer to all who are interested?


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