Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weeding a Forgotten Section

One of the areas of my responsibility in the nonfiction collection is the 840s. Officially this is "Literatures of Romance languages"--on a practical level, this translates to "French literature and related stuff." There may have been a time when French poetry, plays, criticism, and novels were incredibly popular at my library, but now is not that time. The average copyright date of items in this section is 1965 (the median and mode are both 1967). The Spanish-language (860s) and Russian-language (890s) sections are both over capacity and much more heavily used at my library, and weeding the 840s will help provide some additional space in that area. The weeding list I am working from encompasses the majority of the items in this part of the collection. So what do you do when you have an area to weed and you could theoretically delete almost every item?

I was given responsibility for this area because I have a mild grasp of French and opinions about literature.* Also I volunteered, which is probably how these things usually come about in the library world. I typically only buy a few items each year that would end up shelved here, a recent example being Balzac's Omelette, which has circulated three times in the last year and a half. Pretty good for an item in the 840s at my library.

The collection has a little over 850 items, only 42% of which have circulated at all since 1999, when we started keeping track through the ILS. Only 16.7% of the items have circulated in the last five years. Fewer than 40 items were published after 2000. The top five circulating items are all in English:
  • Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo (1950s?), 12 circulations
  • Voltaire, Candide and Other Writings (1956), 11 circulations
  • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1982), 11 circulations
  • William F. Buckley, Cancel Your Own Goddamn Subscription: Notes & Asides from the National Review (2007), 10 circulations
  • Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1955), 9 circulations
The oldest inhabitants (all in the original French):


Alexandre Dumas Fils, Contes et Nouvelles (1856)

Monsieur Renan in all his glory.

Ernest Renan, Vie De Jésus (1863)

A map of the Battlefield of Sedan

Émile Zola, La Débâcle (1895)

In the 849s ("Occitan & Catalan literatures"), we only have five items. I am going to leave them alone out of pity.

Given all this, I have concluded that our patrons would rather check out English translations of French works, that the section hasn't been regularly updated in perhaps thirty or more years, and that I have a huge task ahead of me. I've developed a plan to delete at least half of the books in this part of the collection over the next week or two. After looking over my printout and the shelves, I'm going to target:
  • Duplicate copies
  • Discolored, worn, and falling-apart materials (none of the books from the 1800s really fall into this category--they really don't make books like they used to)
  • English translations for which we have other copies shelved in general fiction
  • Books of literary criticism
  • Biographical books on French authors
The two last items might be valuable in an academic library, but have no place here. At this point, author biographies can be more easily acquired through databases. When in doubt, I consult my library's collection development policy:
The collections of the Springfield City Library are not archival. Current usefulness is the determining factor in how long materials is kept, and no extraordinary effort is made to preserve or protect the last copy of any title in the collection.
Right there is all the leverage I need to get rid of most of the 840s, as it's hard to argue that a yellowed French novel from the 1960s is immediately useful to any of our patrons. However, I am sensible of the need to keep some materials; the result will likely cost this collection most of its depth, but hopefully it will end up being used more often. The big names--Dumas, Camus, etc.--will stay, along with some associated material. If that author is still being taught in a lower-level class somewhere, I'll keep it. If there's evidence that someone has wanted an item recently, I'll likely keep it.

I enjoy weeding, but I'm also a book lover, and it is difficult to for me to get rid of so many items. To prove my humanity, I will confess that I did move a 1909 leather-bound set of Balzac's La Comédie Humaine to the closed stacks. Not because they might be worth something or even because someone might want to check them out someday, but because I just couldn't pull the trigger.


*I have opinions about a lot of things, actually, which is why I write these posts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Click My Link! May 14, 2013

Happy Tuesday!

Cengage may declare bankruptcy.

Don't judge old books by their new covers: Restyling the covers of classics.

A law librarian at the Library of Congress blog investigates the origin of "In God We Trust" on our currency.

The Appeal of Reading True Stories--a list of suggestions for nonfiction reader's advisory.

From Scientific AmericanThe Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper vs. Screens.

Why Haruki Murakami translated The Great Gatsby.

From the World's Strongest Librarian Josh Hanagarne, five great books about libraries.



Just for Fun:

How to Host a Genre-Reveal Party.

Help a library, send a postcard!

50 tattoos inspired by books.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Post: Learning the Collection Through Displays

This post was originally run by Kristi over at Books, Yarn, Ink, and Other Pursuits, but it is relevant to our interests here as well! She recently began working as a library director in western Massachusetts, and has been doing a lot of learning on the job.
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Now that I have been here a year, I am starting to work on filling the holes in my knowledge about the collection. Over the last year I did accomplish some massive weeding projects throughout nonfiction, VHS, and books on cassette. We had some heavy-duty shelf sitters and overcrowded subject areas. The previous director loved nonfiction, but I have always been a fiction buyer and that was where I focused my efforts when I began working with the collection. Mysteries are the most popular genre here, but they still need to be weeded from time to time. I also broke out science fiction and fantasy into its own area.

One thing I have enjoyed bringing to the library is more displays. We are a small library, but I have a bay in the New Titles area and a cart in front of the circulation desk where I present new displays one or two times a month. I have mostly done "Celebrate X Month" displays, although I do try to highlight authors that have recently passed on, and this month I have a gardening display up because oh-my-goodness I am ready for spring!

It was really when putting together this month's displays -- gardening, Jazz Appreciation, and National Poetry Month -- that I realized I was seeing, if not necessarily shelf-sitters, but titles that were not being picked up as much as I had anticipated. Usually, when these displays go up, I have to fill in spaces several times throughout the month. With these, not so much. I think I have only replaced four books so far.




This could be interpreted in my patrons' lack of interest in the subject areas, but as you can see, they are not the latest titles. I think I had just one gardening book that was published in the last couple of years. We have no recent poetry anthologies, and jazz is not a topic that we have a lot of requests for.

So I sent my selector off in search of some more recent titles in gardening and poetry, with the help of our recent issues of Library Journal (which highlighted both subjects in recent print articles and reviews) and looking at the topics online at both Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I figure if people are buying them there, they will borrow them here!

This has really made me wonder about how best to take a look at smaller areas of the collection, as opposed to the "weeding the 600s" mentality that can sometimes exist in libraries. My library is all part-time staff except for me, and while they do a great job at weeding and making recommendations, we certainly do not focus on these tasks every week. By using displays, we will actually be able to analyze the collection more and make decisions based on patron interest and usage. I am hoping to see this grow into a scheduled review of specific sections each month when the displays change out.

Do you ever find yourself making collection development decisions based on displays?


Kristi is the Director at Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton, MA. She blogs at Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits and is usually trolling the Twitter feeds looking for library and knitting inspiration as @booksNyarn.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Click My Link! Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Thursday!

Last week, I presented on "Full-Frontal Shelving: Erotica in the Library" with Kristi Chadwick--lots of opportunities for collection development in that area!

The Anthony Award Nominees are out!

Locus Award Nominees!

Finalists for the Shirley Jackson Awards (outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic).

A handy flowchart for YA humor books (via the Lawrence PL).

If you were waiting for a sequel to A Time to Kill, you're in luck.

Via our friend @librarymary40, some tips on how to get started in a new library job.

From Book Riot, your guide to summer movies based on books.


Just for Fun:

A brilliant solution to the quandary presented by reading in the bathtub.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What the Heck is Denewing?

"Denewing" is the term I invented for the process of taking books from the new shelf and changing their status to, for lack of a better word, "not-new." Sure, I could farm the work out to other people in my library, but it's never been clear to me why I would when denewing presents the perfect opportunity to see what has been circulating, how many times, and (thanks to Evergreen, our new ILS) the last library at which an item was checked out. Plus, peeling stickers = therapeutic. Denewing is something I can do on desk while I help people with their various computer issues.

Denewing also makes your new shelves look better. Because space is at such a premium in most public libraries (although regular weeding could help with that--cough), the New Shelf is the place where we have the best opportunity to showcase what we're buying and catch people's attention. The new shelf should be positioned somewhere where it will catch patrons' eyes and shout (item-wise): HEY, THESE ARE THE COOL, INFORMATIVE, USEFUL THINGS WE ARE BUYING WITH YOUR TAX MONEY.


A "before" shot. Notice how the book on display is squeezed so far over that it's only half visible? That is not ideal. An overcrowded shelf says "sure, put that book back wherever you want, we won't notice."


An "after" shot from one of my sections. Which shelf would you rather peruse?

Leave enough space for one book to be displayed face out and enough space for books coming back to be shelved in the section without creating a space problem for the book on display. New books usually circulate more frequently than denewed books, and sometimes they all come back at once. And, out of consideration for the people (patrons, pages, circ staff, or reference librarians) who will be looking for specific books in the New section, have your display books be from approximately the same call number range as the shelf they are sitting on! A book from the 100s should not be on display in the 900s.


And then there are the opportunities for art . . . all those stickers have to go somewhere, right?

I usually denew every month or so, and the items I'm switching have generally been on the shelf at least nine months. I know from some conversations on Twitter that this is a long time for a lot of libraries, but it seems to work for our collection. Rather than denew on a schedule, I keep an eye on my subject areas (nonfiction only, my collection responsibilities do not extend to hardback fiction) and denew whenever they're looking a little crowded. I may order a lot of books in one subject area one month (e.g., martial arts, for which I recently ordered several titles), which would lead to heavier denewing in that area nine months later. I don't necessarily denew everything I pull off the shelf, either. I might keep a high circulating book on the New Shelf, or one that is seasonally appropriate.

Try to keep in mind that every book that you denew has to have its own shelf space in the regular stacks. For every book in, there should be a book out.

What are your experiences with denewing?