This summer, I am working with tutors across all subjects to tackle weeding the library collections. I began by extracting a huge amount of data from the library catalogue and subdividing it to show which books (by subject) had not been borrowed in the last 5 years or more. Reference books are excluded because (in theory at least) they can’t be borrowed. Excel nearly dies every time I open that document, so I’ve since broken it up into smaller reports!
I think it’s useful to see how many books have not been borrowed over a certain period. Naturally, this won’t give an idea of how many books are used only in the library and then re-shelved, but nonetheless it still gives an impression of the extent to which the stock is circulating.
Weeding the stock in my library is vital because we have virtually no space for new books. I am looking forward to being able to space the books out more comfortably on the shelves, and it will make the shelving assistants’ jobs much easier when they don’t have to struggle to replace a book.
Once it has been agreed which items will be removed from the library, there begins a labour-intensive phase of collecting up the items, deaccessioning them from the library catalogue and stamping ‘withdrawn’ over their bookplates and other markings identifying them as library property.
Last of all, the books need to leave the library. Sometimes, it is possible to have a shelf or table for withdrawn stock which library users may take away, free or for a small charge. This works well if there are tens or a couple of hundred items involved, and if there is a place to display them. A bookseller may be interested in purchasing some of the stock.
This summer, there is a large volume of minimal resale value stock to be removed, so I have engaged a company to collect and process the books. This company aim to resell or give to charity a percentage of the books they handle, and the remainder are recycled.
Managing the collection to ensure it is varied and relevant is quite a challenge; but it is made easier as people become more familiar with the ongoing balancing act of books in as well as books out.