Our very own Head of Library Services, Meriah Caswell, wrote a fascinating article in our local arts arts newspaper ‘The Humm”, called “Your Books, Your Library,Your Community”. It was all about how difficult ( and controversial) it can be to keep a library collection up to date and complete. While many people think of discarding books as the ultimate sin, it’s a necessary evil for libraries that can’t expand their buildings to keep everything. Meriah explains:
“Developing a library collection, is not all about finding the perfect book for its reader. There is a darker side to librarianship. The side we don’t like to talk about. The thing is, once a library has filled its shelves with all those wonderful books, soon those shelves cannot be packed any further. White pages begin to yellow, hot topics become yesterday’s news, and current information turns from dated to incorrect and, if kept long enough, to hilariously (or insultingly) outmoded (for examples of this, check out awfullibrarybooks.net).
People who have read the hottest title are loathe to read it again, and soon the book featuring a busty damsel with hot pants and a scrunchie on the cover has been sitting on the shelf for years without a reader. These books must be moved in order to make room for those that the community currently wants to read. The process of finding these books and separating them from the ones that are in demand has been euphemistically dubbed “weeding”, and is an important part of keeping a collection current and relevant to a community. Library staff will rely on a variety of methods to determine what should be pulled, with circulation statistics being the main indicator. Books that are “weeded” often find new life on the “for sale” table, and many libraries will donate their used items to charitable organizations.
At the Carleton Place Public Library, much of our weeded material is donated to Better World Books, who will match each online book sale with a donation of a book to someone in need.”
So, the next time you come to the library and look through our sale table, keep in mind that these books were once well loved, and will hopefully serve a new purpose to someone who might not have had a chance to read them yet.