When I arrived at my current place of employment, I inherited a high school library of 20,000 physical volumes that had not been weeded in institutional memory. That’s not quite true: the librarian who worked there right before me, for about a year and a half, had weeded a lot, especially in the fiction section, including, rumor had it, all the “for boys” books (early YA literature).
The collection was still astonishingly outdated. The budget for the past decade or more had covered databases, a few hundred dollars’ worth of book purchases, and a handful of magazines. It seemed like every donation was kept. The average age of the library was 1977. All of the age-sensitive materials were woefully outdated: history books discussed the Cold War, chemistry books’ periodic tables were incomplete, social sciences questioned the motives of the fledgling Civil Rights Movement.
One of my major goals at my library has been to bring the age of the collection into the 21st century. When I arrived at my library, the collection was very large, outdated, and irrelevant to the students’ current needs and interests. The previous librarian (who worked there 1.5 years) had weeded over 2,000 books, mostly from the fiction section, and my colleagues were surprised that the library needed more weeding. I have kept up his pace, weeding 1500-2500 books per year, focusing on nonfiction sections that see a lot of use. As I weed, I also acquire new materials, especially in highly weeded/high use sections. For our school, those are biology, Shakespeare criticism and literary non-fiction, drama, modern Middle East history, environmental policy, and social issues. (Why we weed.) (more…)
We still have some work to do, but we’re holding steady at >5 items per student per school year — significant growth over the <2 items per student per year over the last decade. These stats do not include ebook circulations, so those bewailing the death of the book need not fear.
Creativity is something that is inherent in everyone, but it gets beaten down a lot in our production-focused educational and economic systems. The library remains a democratizing and nurturing environment where creativity can thrive.
New Boog City (.pdf) with an interview with The Library as Incubator Project’s Erinn Batyfeker (turnabout is fair play).