I keep looking at the dandelion leaves pushing their way up in my flower beds thinking how much I detest the job of removing them. Why can’t we just leave them there? They have pretty yellow flowers! What harm does it do? Well, the thing is, they grow anywhere that nothing else grows. They spread their seeds and take over an area as soon as you turn your back, and they crowd out the things that you are trying to grow there. If you don’t pull them when they are young, the roots will become nearly impossible to pull out of the ground. I’m told that 10 minutes of weeding a day will keep my beds weed free.
What does that have to do with libraries? We do a thing called weeding books. In order for you to have the newest titles and the best information on the shelf, we have to do something with the older books that no one is asking for any more. We use a lot of criteria for which books will stay on the shelf: condition, accuracy of information, circulation, and redundancy to name a few. As much as it hurts our book-loving hearts, we cannot keep all of the books.
The thing I like least about my job is trying to shelve books when the shelves are too full. I either have to cram a book into an already tight space or shift four shelves worth of books in order to free up enough room for the one book I am shelving. This does not make me a happy camper. I’m not upset for myself, but for everyone who has to try to use those shelves. If you try to pull a book out of those tight shelves, chances are half of the books on the shelf will try to come with it. Fewer books end up being checked out because it is harder to browse the shelves and see what is on them. This is not good for patrons or libraries. Hence, we have to weed. I find that weeding books makes the shelves look new. The books can breathe. We can even put a few books face out to catch your eye!
The good news is that ACPL is an archival library, so even though we have to pull books from the public shelves, you should be able to place a hold on nearly any book we have had on our library shelves and have it sent to your favorite branch. We try to keep one copy of everything we purchase. We have an extensive storage area in the basement at the Main Library where the books are stored in order, so they can be found quickly and sent to you. I like weeding books, knowing that I’m not removing the last copy from circulation, but I hate pulling weeds in my garden. Perhaps if I try the 10 minute a day discipline, I can keep my flower beds weed free. Maybe I could talk a few librarians into devoting one hour a week toward weeding. It doesn’t sound as bad as weeding an entire section when it gets too full. Maybe they’ll even let me spend an hour a week weeding!