In the Weeds

Jonathan Kemper

This is my first summer keeping up with a whole yard’s worth of weeding. When I was a kid, weeding the family garden was a sweaty neck, mosquito bites, and work that never seemed to end. As an adult, I might still sweat and itch, but now I get the appeal of weeding — it’s oddly satisfying, similar to peeling sunburn or plucking a stray hair.

Weeding in an academic library is satisfying in its own way. It’s also an essential summer project for us; our library is only 2 stories, with the majority of the circulating collection on the lower level. After 2 summers postponing weeding due to the pandemic, the collection is bursting at the seams. 

It’s going to be a lot of work for all departments. In addition to librarians weeding, the circulation department is doing a library-wide inventory. And on top of that, the Director is planning a diversity audit of the collection. So we’ve got 3 projects that have us scrutinizing the collection, or as my coworker says, “communing with the books.” I think these overlapping projects will yield good results for us, as we learn what we have too much of and what we’re missing.

We have a paperbacks collection that I tackled in one week, with the help of our Circulation staff. We weeded about 740 titles, largely based on condition and circulation stats. While we send qualifying titles to Better World Books, they don’t accept mass market paperbacks, so these would normally be put on our book sale cart.

But since we were weeding so many paperbacks at once, my coworker had the great idea to host a Paperback Giveaway to kick off the summer. We arranged all the books on two folding tables, all their spines facing up, and faculty, staff, and students could come to the library all week to take as many books as they wanted. We also provided canvas totes with the school’s logo on them, and that made patrons take even more books home with them.

Patrons sometimes feel alarm when you’re removing a bunch of books at once, even if it’s to make room on the shelves for new things. Inviting our campus community to pick up free discards gave us a chance to explain this sometimes-controversial phase of collection management. One library’s trash, another patron’s treasure!

One thought on “In the Weeds”

  1. Thanks! I just sent a request to Better World Books to see about donating our books from the West Coast. Also, love the garden comparison–I am weeding there as well.

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