Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weeding Q&A

My last post talked about the Weeding webinar that Mary Kelly and I were involved with. Afterward, the panelists were assigned questions from attendees to answer that didn't get answered during the webinar. I thought I'd share those questions and our answers.

Question #1: There used to be core collection recommendations for the nonfiction area. Is that still a relevant tool to use for collection development and weeding?

Answer: The Public Library Catalog still exists, and is still a relevant tool to use for collection management. I caution you about using it as the "final answer," though. The PLC can not speak to YOUR community and YOUR patrons and YOUR mission. It is a general list of core titles for a general public library. It can help you make some decisions about weeding and selection, but I would never choose something for any library collection just because the PLC says you should have it. It's a nice starting point, but definitely consider your audience and your purpose in your decision making.

Question #2: Since I am not a subject expert in everything -we are a small academic library with a small staff-how can I identify the "classic" or "landmark" books in a subject that we would want to keep? or should it not even be a consideration? thanks!

Answer: A small academic library could use the Public Library Catalog to build a core collection in different subject areas. To be perfectly honest, I've never worked in an academic library and I don't know if there is an academic library equivalent to the PLC, but if there is I would guess that it is geared to large university libraries. For most small academics, the PLC might be just the thing. Be sure to keep YOUR patrons and YOUR mission in mind when making choices for your collection, since the PLC can't do that. It's a good starting point for non-subject specialists building a collection, though.

Question #3: “How can we effectively weed a floating collection?” and “Are there any good strategies for weeding a branch library, in a library system which "floats" its collection among branches?”

Answer: Neither Mary nor I have ever worked in libraries with floating collections, but maybe they could consider assigning a system-wide "weeding specialist" to go from branch to branch and weed what's on the shelves at that branch at that time. They would catch the majority of what needs to be weeded, and then the individual branches could catch the rest.

The person assigned to this project would need a lot of:
a) time
b) travel
c) patience
d) understanding of the communities served by each branch so they don't weed something that seems like a weird choice at one library, but works well in another.

Most ILSs will allow you to turn off the float feature, too. The system could stop floating for a few weeks or months, everyone do a big weed at their individual branches, and then turn the floating feature back on when everyone's ready. This would require a closely-guarded weeding schedule (no slacker branches holding up everyone else!). The staff at each branch would still have to understand the communities served by other branches so that they don't weed something that might do well elsewhere. They would have to look at not only what circulates, but WHERE it circulates frequently.

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