Saturday, May 17, 2014


Last week I posted this photo on Facebook. We have many thistles around our school at the moment and I love their dramatic purple/pink colours. One of my friends commented that these are actually deadly to cows. I am pretty sure she was not suggesting I was a cow, she was simply sharing the information. At the moment I am learning about collection management including how to select books and resources for our collection and of course deselect them - also known as weeding. I realized how conservative I have been in weeding the collection. I think I have been fearful since we are such a distance from sources of books and customs makes it tricky to import them. However, old, musty, dated books are as toxic to our library as purple thistles are to cows. 

As I was reading about weeding (now that is fun to say) I found Doug Johnson's article about it and his comment, "Poorly weeded collections are not the sign of poor budgets but of poor librarianship. Period." 
Ouch. That was like coming up against a thistle. But, like so many things, Johnson is right. I have to overcome my fears and get into the collection and get rid of all the weeds. If I don't my students will not find the great new books we have.

There are many great guides to how to weed. CREW is a guide from Texas and is downloadable. Then there is the guide from National Library of New Zealand services to schools. Most advice to write a clear collection management policy and set the selection and deselection criteria very clearly. The trouble with weeding is that some people in our schools do not want to part with books. Somehow it can be a very controversial thing to remove books from the library collection. The blog "Awful library books" actually shows the terrible books that librarians are removing form their collections. It also gives some great reasons why we need to weed. In the section "Why weed?" they make the valid point that libraries have limited space. The SCIS electronic newsletter 'connections' article about weeding makes the valid point that students actually need materials available ina way that they can easily be found, not crammed together, old and new together.

So yesterday, in the effort to make space at our smallest campus I spent the day weeding the picture books. As I did many children came up to ask what I was doing (as I sat amid piles of old dusty and worn out books). Anna in our Prep class (age 5 years old) sat down beside me and asked if she could help. I told her my criteria for deselecting the books and I handed her an old musty book and asked her what should I do with this? She looked through the book carefully while telling me' "I haven't seen anyone look at this book". After looking at the date due slip, noting the browned pages and ripped spine she said no we shouldn't re-shelf this book, put it on the pile. Together we worked through about 20 books. Some of the nice looking books we stopped and considered the copyright date (information she grasped quickly and consulted on a few other books). Unfortunately for me Anna had to go to another class and I was left on my own to ransack the picture books. 

That day 580 books were removed from our collection. Don't despair I reordered the tattered favourites and classics. The shelves now show the beautiful new books we have. Children came in and loved browsing the shelves. I have grown stronger in my professionalism as a librarian and yes, though I like the purple thistles they really can be toxic to students use of the collection. I will return and finish the job on the whole collection.

The cramped shelves.

Weeded shelves

The list confirming 580 books were removed. and the box full of old books

Beilharz, R. (2006). Secret library business – part 2. Connections, 63. Retrieved from
Johnson, D. (2003, September). Weed. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from Doug Johnson website:
Kelly, M., & Hibner, H. (2013). Why we weed. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from Awful Library Books website:
Larsen, J. (Ed.). (2008). CREW resources and links. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from Texas State Library and Archives Commission website:
Services to schools weeding guide. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2014, from National Library of New Zealand website: