Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Milk Analogy

My new library collection is far smaller than my collection at HSC. I'm pretty happy about this, which seems odd, but it means I can pay more attention to it and really care for it. It's like a garden! You can't care for every plant on a giant farm, but you can care for every plant in a garden. That being said, oh boy, do I have some weeding to do.

See what I did there?

For those non-library folks, "weeding" is the terminology when librarians remove books from a collection. Weeding a library collection is very much like weeding a garden; just like you have to pull some weeds to let the plants grow, you have to get rid of old/damaged/out-of-date/unattractive books to let the collection grow. It sounds strange, but it is true. Teens especially see old, yellowed books and go "Blech, there is nothing here that I want to read!" when there could be a perfectly good and useful book sandwiched between two books from 1989.

Honestly, what high school student in 2015 wants to read The High-School Student's Guide to Study, Travel, & Adventure Abroad from 1995? Yes, it looks like a cool book. Yes, it would have been fun for me to read in 2000 when I was a senior in high school, but the book is older than all of my high school students! How valid is this information now?

There's a great analogy that compares weeding books to spoiled milk:
The Milk in the Refrigerator

The milk in the refrigerator is past the sell date, has an odor, and is curdled and lumpy. Would you?

  • Keep it, because you don’t know when you could get to the store to buy more?

    • Then why would you keep a book on the shelf with misinformation because you don’t know when you could replace it?

  • Keep it, because otherwise your refrigerator would look empty?

    • Then why would you keep outdated books on the shelf to preserve a false collection size?

  • Give it to a neighbor to keep in his or her refrigerator?

    • Then why would you send outdated encyclopedias or other materials to a teacher for classroom use?

  • Donate it to a food pantry for hungry children?

    • Then why would you send outdated resources to be used by children in this or other countries?

Dr. Gail Dickinson

I know not all of the texts I'm getting rid of are as bad as spoiled milk. Some are still interesting. I'm getting rid of two Joseph Campbell books, and I love his work, but it just isn't something that students research, want to read about, or can't find elsewhere. We are getting put on the Boston Public Library Inter-library loan delivery schedule, so students can even request books from BPL to be shipped here instead of picking them up at their local branch.

I have a goal; I want to make this library as new and as interesting as possible. It is going to take some time, but that's OK.