Thursday, November 9, 2023

Our self weeding collection


One of the great curses of the modern urban library system these days is weeding. A popular library is constantly procuring new books, and the only way to make room for them is by getting rid of the old books. Long ago, the pace of this was stately, and libraries could simply weed worn and outdated books, and that, reasonably done, was sufficient to make room for shiny new additions to the collection. We could surgically trim the fat, so to speak.

Those days are gone. Years ago we started cutting into the muscle. Our only technique for getting rid of library materials at this point is to flag books that haven't been checked out in the last year and brutally, heedlessly, chuck these out of the system.

Granted, some of these books are junk, but many are fascinating. No one has the time to choose among these. Librarians are far too busy with Internet surfing, cultural sensitivity training, working second jobs, and helping people use the copier. So the pressure is on. Carts of books in the midst of this weeding process sit in our back room right now, and the imminent demise of some of these books brings me nearly to weeping! A book of posters that Picasso designed over the years? A three-year-old book of colorful journals by Nick Cave? Twentieth Century French Photography? All leaving to make space for Parenting for Gen Z, or The Complete Guide to Crystals? I guess it has to be this way.

But there is hope, and we find it in the unlikely videogame collection.

It is self-weeding!

Because of the threat of theft, when we began our videogame collection we kept the discs secured behind our front desk. However, at my instigation last year we switched to leaving the discs in the cases out on the floor, relying on our security system to protect our collection.

It did... okay, to be charitable.

But, admittedly, more games are stolen and lost than they used to be. Not so many that our collection is shrinking though. Just enough so that we don't, in any serious way, need to weed. 

It has become self-weeding!

"But hey!" One of you out there cries, also known as 16 percent of my audience. "Don't they steal all the good games and just leave the bad ones, reducing the quality of your collection?"

That makes sense theoretically, but only if one forgets one key thing about people:

People do not have good taste.

I refer back to the original description of our weeding process. We only weed books that haven't been checked out for a year. Some of these books are awful or dated, but some, left to flounder endlessly unused on our shelves, are magnificent. If people had great taste, our weeding system would work out adequately. But people don't have this kind of taste. They leave extraordinary books on the shelf all the time in order to check out Rich Dad, Poor Dad or The World is Flat. Colleen Hoover books supplant Sue Townsend.

And so it goes with videogames but in the opposite direction. If people knew to steal amazing games like Portal 2, Uncharted 4, and The Persona Games exclusively, we would be in trouble. But they don't.

So we're fine.

Which leaves us with only one small problem to solve:

How do we get people to steal more of our books?


  1. I don't know what happens to the weeded books these days, but I remember when someone came through SV like the Grim Reaper and removed hundreds of books from the shelves. On what authority, I don't know.
    But I've never forgotten one of my first tasks when I worked for the Nashua Public Library, about age 15. In those days, weeded books had their covers removed and the pages torn out in chunks--presumably so that nobody could benefit from what was not worthy of our humble stacks.
    Now, context. At age 15 I was a devout Methodist. Yes, I've changed a lot. So imagine the turmoil I was in when I was given a large box of books to destroy,,, and the first two books were a two-volume set of the history of the Methodist church. I wanted those books so badly, and I wanted the dollar-a-day job. The books lost, of course. I have no memory of actually doing the deed, but I'm sure I did.

    1. Ah well, they tried to destroy you and look, spiritually triumphant despite it all!


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