Margaret Cardello from CMRLS led a discussion regarding weeding the reference collection.
You will find Margaret's handout at the end of this entry.
Why do we need to weed? We do it to have the best information, to get rid of outdated information, to change the focus of our collection, to support new courses, use our money effectively, to remove items offered electronically or to create space. Libraries are significantly cutting their print collections entirely or just some of it. We are reacting to shifts in collections as well as so much great free and pay information online. Some put their reference collections in their general collections. This is because many people want to take items home and use them there.
In our discussion a number of questions came up and were discussed.
- How do we make the decision about what to do? Some discussion focused around collection development policies. We need to make sure our policies are up to date and there to help us make decisions about what should stay and go.
- Who has the final say in what is kept and what is removed? When it comes to the reference collection, do reference librarians have the final say? Some libraries are having critical debates between librarians about these issues.
- How should the faculty be involved in the decisions? Some faculty think that print materials are not current research. Should we keep the books they want kept in the collection? There was discussion about letting them have a say before the final decision is made, but to not let their input be only reason we keep a book. It was suggested to let a faculty member take their favorite item if they are the only one who wants to keep it.
- Should we move these items to the general collection? Some people felt that doing this would encourage more use of those items. Other commented that multiple platforms should be avoided. Don't keep an item you have electronically.
- How do we decide what to move? Some suggested it was arbitrary. If an item is never used, remove it when you see it. Others commented that it was serendipity: see it, look into it, replace, keep or discard; link to free online.
- Should electronic reference books go in our OPAC? Many felt yes, they should to make sure people know they still exist. You can easily do this with many reference e-book collections like Credo (they come with MARC records). Talk to your Tech Services librarian or catalogers to make this happen.
Sara at Fitchburg State said they are barcoding all their reference books to help them track usage before they go through another round of weeding.
Worcester Public said they are keeping a number of items in print that other have moved to electronic (encyclopedias for example). They feel people want to just go to the book and get the answer if they come to the library. Signing on to a computer and locating the electronic item takes too much time.
Heidi and Ellen, from Mount Wachusett Community College, said one of their colleagues looks at Amazon.com to find the current selling price for rare books to determine if they should keep it. They also mentioned a special collection of old nursing books they have. They asked about a CMRLS policy regarding the need to keep a book if they are the last library in the area with it. Margaret thought the policy only applied to Worcester Public Library. She also suggested that the quality of the content help us determine if we keep books in those situations.
Links to Consider:
- ALA's Guide to Reference is a subscription service and replacement for the 1996 book version (which you can still buy)
Help support your fellow librarians:
- Send Sara a link to your collection development policies. Over the next few months she will post an entire entry about collection development policies for those who need to build or update theirs.
- Add your own comments to Margaret's handout. Are there other criteria that you use, but we didn't discuss? Do you have resources you found helpful? What is the procedure you follow to weed titles?
Weeding the Reference Collection
- Next meeting will take place in April/May. Everyone agreed we wanted to wait until the weather was better for driving, but not at the same time as other conferences and big meetings.
- We decided to select a topic that had been discussed at the Spring 09 meeting: Information Literacy in K-12 and Public Libraries. We invited the Worcester Public librarians to participate.
- There was interest in having Liz Vezina from Cushing Academy to see if she can come and talk to us about Information Literacy in their new learning center.