Why would a library discard books?
It might seem odd that a library would discard books. It seems like the opposite of what a library would do, since we are trying to provide you with resources rather than take them away. But removing materials from a library is an essential part of keeping the library up-to-date, valuable, appealing, and relevant to the community it serves. Here is a brief introduction to why and how the library “de-accession”–or “weed“–books in our collection.
The average age of books in our collection over 20 years old. Obviously, some books never grow old; we have collections of classic titles from the writings of Ancient Greece and a new cookbook of Mesopotamian cookery (5000 year old recipes!). But for topics studied by most of SBCC students, current materials are most needed.
There are some very practical reasons to discard books. One is space; we just can’t keep everything ever bought and people browsing for books need to be able to get to the books easily. The books themselves, and the shelves, need space, too, to protect them.
After consulting with the SBCC faculty who teach in the various disciplines, librarians look carefully at the collection, sometimes as books come to our attention, or by looking at sections of the library on certain topics. They look for certain criteria, such as how often a book is checked out, or does a book have an index, or are there other copies of the same book already on the shelves. The “MUSTIE” system of weeding is followed by many libraries as books are examined.
U: Ugly (or dirty, smelly, broken)
E: Elsewhere, as in, may be obtained Elsewhere
Any time librarians weed a library collection, or even part of it, they seek out replacements and purchase them right away. This is the real benefit of weeding; new and more valuable materials are added to the collection for students. Seeing what students need today is the most important way we decide what to buy. Also, if SBCC patrons have ideas for new books, they can offer librarians ideas as well.
What if we make a mistake?
Mistakes can be made. This process is very fluid and can be a great conversation starter, so we encourage students and faculty to bring their ideas to us.