Weeding my H.S. Library

In my 3 years at my HS Library, I have been on a massive weeding campaign. I just completed the first big wave of the process, during which I halved the collection. It is making a BIG & POSITIVE impact on how our collection is used and how it functions.

This year, our circulation increased 75% from the year before I started weeding! I have no doubt this weeding process has had a direct impact by increasing circulation, increasing enjoyment in browsing, a healthier environment, and a more sensitive and responsible collection.

Below is my reflection on my weeding process.


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Pros to weeding

  • Our circulation increased.
  • Made room for configuration changes (Read about my genrefying project here!)
  • Freed up floor space via removal of now unnecessary standing bookcases.
  • More attractive and enjoyable to browse collection
  • Quicker and easier to find desirable books
  • More healthy/hygienic – dusty, musty, moldy books removed
  • Made me more familiar with my collection since I had to touch and move every book!
  • Make room for current and emerging needs
  • Revamp perception/modernize the way library is used
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So much more floor space we were able to create an additional lounge area!

Kelsey’s Recipe for Successful Weeding Campaign

  1. Get support
    1. For a big weed, you’re going to need admin support! I brought my admin our stats (80% aged, Average age 1988) and a few example books (ratty, outdated, medically inaccurate, books with insensitive words & pictures) so they could visualize what types of books we were actually dealing with.
      1. My administration was SHOCKED that these types of books were on our shelves. Always remember that Admin and community often have no clue about the reality of our collection. That’s why it is so important to show and tell to get their support. 
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        I found this in our collection this year. Written by the disgraced and debunked Andrew Wakefield! YIKES! 
  2. Know district policies
    1. Every district has different rules for weeding, so be sure to check yours!
      1. Some schools let you sell weeded books, some don’t. Some let you recycle, some don’t. Some let you donate, some don’t. Etc. Etc.
  3. Be transparent
    1. When it comes to weeding there seems to be two general schools of thought for how to approach it. Some librarians keep weed “under cover of night” so to speak. For me it made more sense to just be transparent about it.
      1.  I announced that I’d be “weeding” and explained the process. I shared this info in my monthly newsletters, at faculty meetings, and on social media. The school newspaper even interviewed me in depth about it, which was great because their questions revealed a lot of misunderstandings and preconceived notions I was able to address.
    2. There will be pushback: I definitely had some push-back from a few of the older-school teachers, but most of my community is supportive. Many teachers congratulated me on taking the step, and many were actively excited to see the library being updated. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Trust yourself and that you know best.
      1. Whether supportive or apprehensive, these conversations provided wonderful opportunities for me to enlighten my staff as to the goals and vision of the school library, and to reassure them as to the methodology and philosophy behind weeding.
      2. Always remember that it’s not a teacher’s fault that they don’t understand our jobs. How would they? Rather than becoming defensive, use these moments of mistrust/misunderstanding as opportunities to build understanding with your staff about what you do and why and how it improves access for your students!
  4. Befriend your maintenance dept (IMMEDIATELY)
    1. The maintenance dept. is the BEST, most helpful, most awesome dept. in the whole school! Ours are always willing to help me with the weeding process, from how to dispose of the unhygienic books, to helping me move boxes of books, to moving and rearranging the now empty bookcases, to moving & building the library furniture again and again as I continue to re-work the space, and the list goes on and on and on.
    2. Seriously, if you haven’t thanked your maintenance dept. recently, go do that immediately. They are the only reason our schools function at all, and, at least for me, they are the only reason I’ve been able to bring any of my visions and changes for our library to life.
  5. Be Ruthless
    1. If you want to make big changes via weeding, you’re going to have to be unemotional and ruthlessly aggressive with it. Decide on your goals, decide on your weeding criteria, and then stick to it.
    2. At first it may feel very anathema to be removing books and giving them the axe, but it get’s easier the more you do it! School Libraries are not archives. We do not exist to preserve all books that have ever been published. We exist to serve the current and emerging needs of our school communities, which are ever changing.  

Getting Started

  1. When to start?

    1. I started weeding in my very first year at my HS. I know sometimes the advice is to wait until you’ve settled into your new school for a bit, however, I decided to start right away, for a couple of reasons:
      1. Firstly, I intended to begin as I meant to go on. I wanted my staff and students to understand from the beginning that the library would be undergoing significant changes under my tenure.
      2. Secondly, the collection was truly in dire need of immediate weeding.
      3. Thirdly, the process helped me get to know my collection, since weeding requires you to touch and investigate every book.
  2. Where to start?

    1. First I ran my collection analysis to get an idea of what shape my collection was in.  Then I thought about our goals, and where it made most sense to start.
      1. Depending on your communities’ needs, it may make sense to start in one section rather than another.
    2. I started with Fiction. Then I went to Bio/memoir. Finally I moved on to Non-fiction, which accounted for 75% of our collection.
      1. Fiction:
        1. I started with Fiction because it made sense with the curriculum changes happening in our ELA dept. Also because I wanted to get the fiction collection in good shape for the eventual genre-fication process (read about that here).
        2. When weeding Fiction:
          1. I focused first on the “popular fiction” (i.e. NOT the so called “literary classics”).
            1. On the first pass through I looked at books that haven’t been circulated in 10 years. From those I weeded any that were in poor condition, had unappealing covers, duplicates, etc. I really just followed the CREW Method’s MUSTIE process.
            2. I didn’t feel I had gone far enough at this point so I then did a second run-through and looked at all books that hadn’t circulated in 3-5 years. From those I weeded again according to MUSTIE.
          2. Finally I went through the “classics” within fiction and identified which ones could go, which needed to stay, and which should be added or refreshed with new versions.
      2. Biography:
        1. I tackled biography next because our students no longer use books for biographical background info, they mostly use our databases for biographical info, so I wanted to make more room for increasing the memoir collection. Memoirs are in high demand with our students.
        2. When weeding bios/memoirs:
          1. I looked at circ stats for the last 8 years.
          2. I focused on removing dated pop culture celebrities, excessive duplicates of presidents/politicians, and followed the MUSTIE guidelines.
          3. I weeded the original bio/memoir section by about 50 percent and we now have more room to grow it back up with the memoirs that are very in demand. Yay!
      3. Non-Fiction:
        1. The was the hardest to weed because the NF collection was just so extremely large and so extremely dated.  The average collection age was 1988 when I started. That is the year I was BORN!
        2. When weeding the Nonfiction:
          1. I tackled it in sections:
            1. For 1 year I focused on the 0-600s.
            2. The following year I weeded the 700-900s.
          2. I followed the CREW Method and ended up weeding about 50% of every section. There was a lot of unreliable information, outdated information, no longer accurate information (i.e. Soviet Union doesn’t still exist and Pluto has been given the axe!), etc.
  3. When to do the weeding?

    1. I work on weeding all throughout the year, whenever my schedule allows.  I tried to weed a little bit at least 1 day each week. Some weeks I was able to devote more time to this then others, but to avoid burning out, I try to spread my weeding out throughout the year.

The Practicalities (The actual “How-To”)

Here’s how I actually proceeded to do the weeding of my collection!

Pre-Weeding:

  1. Got admin support/approval
  2. Reviewed the CREW Method, (if you’re not using CREW/MUSTIE, just thoroughly review whichever method you are using 🙂
  3. Familiarized myself with the current collection and current school curricula.
  4. Decided on which section to start with.
  5. Bought a dust mask (seriously, I wear one when I weed nonfiction because our NF collection is SO old and a LOT of dust/must gets stirred up. Its disgusting.)
  6. Ran a “shelf report,” including the publication date & circulation info for the past 20 (or 10, or 3) years.
    1. Pro Tip! I pull the shelf report up on my ipad instead of printing it because its a lot of paper to print, and its easier to scroll down on the ipad then to flip pages!
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Choosing what gets Weeded:

  1. Going through the books – Once I had my shelf report ready, and I’ve decided on the weeding criteria I’ll be focusing on, I began to actually go through the books.
  2. My quick “scan & tip” method – My first pass through is very quick, & I only pay attention to the books that hit the publication date & circ stat criteria I’m focusing on. If the book hits that criteria, I “tag” it by quickly just tipping the book down on its spine as I keep on moving through the shelves.
  3. The second pass through – Next I do a more thorough evaluation of the books that I initially “tagged” as potential weeds (the tipped down books.) I now check each book out individually, pulling it off the shelf, checking it’s physical condition and evaluating it using MUSTIE criteria.
    1. If the book should stay, I simply tip it back up on the shelf and keep on moving down the line.
    2. If the book should be weeded, I leave it tipped down on the shelf.

The Actual Weeding

  1. Scan them out of the catalog
    1. I put my laptop on a mobile cart and go through the stacks to scan all of the tipped down “needs to be weeded” books out of the catalog. Then I pull them onto a cart.
    2. PRO TIP – This step can easily be done by a clerk or student assistants!
  2. De-process the books:
    1. Each district has different rules for how books need to be de-processed, so make sure you find out what your district requires! My district requires us to cover or remove all markings that say our school’s name and address. I just use a sharpie to cross out our school’s name.
    2. PRO TIP – This step can be done by a clerk, or student assistants. We actually partner with our Life Skills students who tackle this step for us!
  3. Get those books gone!
    1. It’s finally time to have the books removed. Each district has different requirements and rules for this so be sure you double check with your district what their policies are! My school requires weeded books to be disposed of or donated. We cannot sell them.
    2. So what do I do with the books?
      1. If they are good, clean, & safe:
        1. Books that are in good, hygienic physical shape, and which do not contain dangerous or irresponsibly outdated info are given away.
          1. First, I put them on our “free books” cart for my staff & students to help themselves to throughout the year.
          2. At the end of the year I put everything that’s left out as a “Free For All.”
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              End of Year “Free For All” Book-a-palooza!
        2. Anything still left on the last day gets re-boxed up and donated to a local community book drive.
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            Boxes of good condition “weeds” waiting to be picked up for donation!
      2. Books that are in poor condition, inaccurate, or insensitive
        1. Books in poor physical condition, excessively dated/irrelevant, or contain inaccurate or containing insensitive/irresponsible information, are disposed of per our district’s policies.

Well, that was a long post but then again, my weeding process was long too! Good luck with your own weeding projects! It feels great to work towards a fresh and engaging collection!

2 comments

  1. I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH!! for this post, and for your entire blog, really. Next August I will be starting a new position as a high school librarian. I’m so excited, but also overwhelmed and nervous! I was able to tour my library the other day and the first thing I noticed was that it is dire need of weeding. The books looked so old and neglected 😦 . Thank you for sharing your process!!

    Like

    • Congratulations on your new position!! I know it can be overhwelming to start in an outdated library but it is honestly SO MUCH FUN! You will love being able to see your library change and evolve as you make changes the first few years. I’m so glad you’re finding my blog helpful! 🙂

      Like

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