Websites and weeding: I’m glad it’s not just me…

Take heart: you’re not the only one trying to make progress and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere fast.

I’ve just seen the following two blog posts that comforted me.

(1) Paul on overcoming library website despair

It ought to be easy for a group of “”information professionals” to keep a small-ish set of web pages up to date and intelligible, but it’s never really been something we’ve been able to do a good job of.

Deep breath; say it with me: “our library website sucks, and it’s our fault”.

Good web design looks simple, but it’s no simple task.  And it can be hard to convince senior colleagues with little experience of web design that (a) it requires time, (b) it often requires money and (c) technical expertise in usability and accessibility (rather than Prof X wants you to do it like this…) matters.  And just because a website was last overhauled in 2007 does not mean it is necessarily still fit for purpose – maintaining a web site is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge.

(2) My library hero Jenica on weeding

The question I find far more interesting than “should we keep it or should we discard it”, though, is how to compellingly present my argument about our collections, the idea that relevance and utility to today’s curriculum as demonstrated by active teaching strategies and student assignments is more important than the “classic” status of an unused work, to our faculty.

My library is one of nearly 100 libraries at the University of Oxford, and my aim is to ensure that we target our modest financial and space resources into providing a circulating collection of items on reading lists.  The faculty and departmental libraries are the place to go for more obscure, less well-used and research-related items, and yet I still have a tough time trying to reassure academics that if we weed the item from St Hugh’s College Library, the students will still be able to access it at the Bodleian.

I love the comment on Jenica’s post by Jason

In the case of weeding, our Dean said, very politely, to the faculty: “These books are not being used, and have not been used in 20 years. There are two possibilities… either students can’t find the things they need (in which case weeding makes good content more findable) OR teaching faculty aren’t teaching to a curriculum that includes the books you want to keep. We are dealing with the half of that equation we control.”


Keep fighting the good fight, y’all.



  1. There’s design, and there’s content. Both can be time consuming. I was involved in a remake of a library website, and we had very little control over the overall design, because it had to fit in with the corporate template (which none of us liked!). That was frustrating. As for content, I now think that we tried to put too much information into the website.

    BTW – I think that they’ve recently completed painting the Forth Bridge with a surface that won’t need constant attention – it may last 20 years or more. But your analogy is still sound 🙂

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