Weeding: What Is It, and Why Do We Do It?

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You've been teaching a 3rd grade unit on butterflies every spring for the past 20 years. So every spring, you go to your local library and borrow a copy of Butterflies of the World. Sure, it's got some torn pages and the corners are dog-eared and it was published in 1972, but hey--the information is still relevant, right?

Only, this year, you can't find it in the library's catalog. So you ask the librarian about it.

"Oh, that old thing," she says, wrinkling her nose. "I think it was weeded."

WAIT! WHAT? What does that mean?

"It means we withdrew from the collection. It fell apart." She shrugs her shoulders apologetically.

Withdrew it? YOU GOT RID OF IT? Where did it go?

"But I use that book every year. Can I get another copy?", you ask, trying to keep your composure.

Another shrug. "Maybe from another library. We can't purchase a new copy because the book isn't in print anymore."

"How long will that take?" You are starting to panic. "I need it by Monday."

"Sorry. It could take a few days or a few weeks. It's hard to say." She senses your desperation. "But, we just got some nice new volumes..."

Every month at MCLS, we focus on "weeding" a different area of our collection, based on certain criteria. It is exactly what it sounds like--we look at the materials and pull those that are out-of-date, unused, or just plain worn out. If a book has been our shelves for several years, and it only is only borrowed once or twice a year, we usually have to withdraw it from our collection. Sometimes, we have more copies of a book than we actually need. Withdrawn items are offered for sale through the Friends of the Library, or recycled if they are in very bad condition.

Our library system's collection is just like a garden, and by "weeding" out the old, worn out or unused materials, we can make room for the good stuff to grow. The good stuff might be shiny new copies of your favorite books (if we can purchase a replacement), or it might be a new collection of materials, a new database, even a great program we offer. By being good gardeners, we are keeping our library's collection relevant and useful for all are patrons.

And, by the way, we get new books about butterflies all the time. So, if you can't find the tried-and-true--just ask us. You might just find your new go-to!