Friday, January 26, 2007

Collections, Just In Case

But I might need this -
There are two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession - being the keepers of information & knowledge AND collection development.

Perhaps I should re-word this: To some professionals there seem to be two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession.

I imagine many of you putting your tea cup back into your saucers, and declaring "What is this man driving at?" I hope none of you slopped.

The Just In Case collection is smothering hundreds of libraries across the world. We must realize that our organizations can not be everything to everyone. Go ahead. Gasp. It is true. We need to depend our on sister organizations to provide content that we simply do not have room for.

I'm sure many of you have heard of those places called "Archives" - they are entire buildings. I'm not talking about the few shelves and rooms that have been put aside in libraries across this nation. Perhaps a private collection of your library's history is appropriate in these spaces. 100 years worth of Newspapers from any town but your own is NOT an archive. It is a pile of rubbish. Go ahead, delcare me crazy. I stand by what I say, and I am unanimous.

Further than old, rotting paper - you do not need to keep the 1982 Guide to Atari repair. "But its the only one in my county!" you counter. Just because it is the last one, does not make it special. Would you keep the last piece of cheese in your icebox, simply because it was the last piece? Do you leave the last piece of pie in the tin to rot? Do you leave a box of tissue on the side table for years, simply because it holds the last tissue? Of course not. If it is not doing anyone good, if it is not being used - throw it away, price and sell the volume at a library book sale, or sell it on an online auction. If it is really, and truely that valuable - you will be richly rewarded with enough cash to purchase several more titles for your collection.

In this age of consortium, we would be unwise not to utilize them. We do not need to have everything in our own collection - our friends in the consortium can lend it to us! Quelle Concept!

And the predecessor, ILL! We can get those volumes from another library!

I hope the fog has parted for some of you. Be proactive in getting into your collections and weeding.

Then, there is the other breed of librarian, who keeps things for other purposes.

"Well, we should keep 456 phone books, just in case the program we pay $12,500.00 each year for goes down for a few hours"

"What if the power goes out? Then what?" [n.b. Nothing. No light = no reading]

"What if someone doesn't want to use the computer?" [n.b. Then go ahead and interlibrary loan in 23 reels of microfilm containing the 1930 census from Cook County, Illinois] Better yet, maybe we should buy every census in paper form! We can stack them ontop of the pile of Newspapers that are making the shelves sag!

"What if the other 4 copies get ruined/stolen/damaged?"

"It's easier for me to just use the print version, even though we pay $43,000 for an electronic database that does it faster." [n.b. see post below, practice makes perfect - you are saying to me I don't know how to use the other resource well, and I can't be bothered.

"What is a library without books?" Oh my G-d, you did not just say that outloud!

So now, my advice to you:

1. If it has dust on it, weed it.
2. If the spine is broken, weed it.
3. If there are more current books on the subject, weed it. No one wants a Fodors 1981 Florida guide. Trust me.
4. If it requires more than 2 pieces of book tape to repair, weed it.
5. If it hasn't circulated in 24 months, seriously consider weeding the book. I don't care if it cost $30.00.
6. It is true that someone might want to write a report on it, but one book isn't going to put them that far ahead. We can use the consortium, or ILL. TOSS IT.
7. Foxing - TOSS IT
8. If it is an antique - then maybe it shouldn't be in the collection. If it has local interest, keep it. If it is esoteric, sell it.
9. Do not let sentiment be your guide. Step back - as a customer would you check out a book that was soiled, torn, or missing pages? Of course not. Weed this.

Now onto ready reference. Is your Ready Reference more like a "I could hole up and live back here through a long winter" collection? I worked with a librarian, who I affectionately call the "Kentucky Librarian" - she kept a lean, mean Ready Reference collection.

I assure you that it is not hard to get out of your ergonomically correct chair, out from behind Fort Reference, and walk to the Reference Collection to find the material you are looking for/being asked for.

Do you say "BUT IT IS TOO VALUABLE to leave out for the general public" - well, we do the same thing with those crazy computers, art work, and there are 100's of unattended purses in a library at any given time. Give me a break. Get up and get it.

I want to be surrounded by a collection that supports my community of users, and enough ready reference to answer quick, "ready reference" style questions. I want a well used collection, not shelves of dusty, unattractive books.

Clinically, this behavior is known as hoarding. And trust me, with an A type personality, and border line OCD - I do not need another diagnosis. A tidy library is a happy library. And I am unanimous.

Moral of this blog: Read My Brothers Keeper if this hasn't made an impression on you.

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