That Book Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Weeding Fiction Paperbacks
I ran a report on the entire paperback collection to generate the statistics I would need (see this post for details on different fields I like to use). Then I subdivided the information by genre so I would end up with manageable chunks. As of early December, when I ran the report, the total number of adult paperbacks in our collection at the main library was approximately 5750 items. Of these, about 850 (15%) were marked as missing, billed, "claims returned," in repair, and other statuses that indicate books are not on the shelf where they're supposed to be. There were 1500 Fiction paperbacks (about a quarter of the total collection), of which 13% were problem children. These items circulated over 7500 times in the past ten years, about 5 times per item--as opposed to the more popular Romance paperbacks, which circulate an average of 8.5 times per item.
I created a list of Fiction paperbacks that:
- Were added to the collection before 2007
- Had not circulated in the last 2 years
- Had fewer than 4 total circulations
Having some experience with weeding this part of the collection, I also included the "missing" and "claims returned" items in my pull list in the hope that I might actually find them on the shelf. I ended up with a list of 255 items that could potentially be weeded from the collection. This number was not overwhelming, yet might create some space on the shelves, even if I didn't end up deleting all the items I pulled off the shelves. I sorted the list by author last name and set out checking every book on the shelf against my list. As I worked, I also put aside books for repair and books with incorrect spine labels and books in the incorrect genre, using this as an opportunity to tidy up as many aspects as possible of this part of the collection.
When I had a group of books with high weeding potential, I considered:
- Whether it was part of an ongoing series
- Whether one of our branches had another paperback copy
- Whether we had a hardback copy here at the central library
- Whether I had a second copy on the shelf
- The condition of the book
- Whether I should reclassify the book's genre to see if it would circulate elsewhere
- Whether it looked like one of the most eyeroll-inducing books ever to be published
If there were other copies in house or in the system, it was fairly easy to make the decision to delete the copies I had in hand. If the book was in poor condition, that was another easy call, although most of them had not circulated enough to make this a factor. Most of the books that I pulled were generic thrillers, action/adventure books with titles like Scorpion Strike, and historical fiction. I was pleased to weed titles by Gene Hackman, Thomas Kinkade, and Oliver North from the collection. I was less pleased to find that seven books by Stephen King, eight books by Dean Koontz, and five books by James Patterson were missing, really missing. I would rather spend my collection budget buying new books than replacing books that people have disappeared from the shelves.
ETA: I did not find any books that were "claims returned," making me shed a small tear for humanity.
ETA: I am also keeping a spreadsheet of the things I delete, what their total circulation was, and whether we have another copy in the system. Because I can. On it I am tracking, for books that were missing, whether they should be replaced--especially if they had high circulations and there are no copies left in the system.