Collaborating with Faculty to Weed an Entire Science and Engineering Book Collection

Collaborating with Faculty to Weed an Entire Science and Engineering Book Collection

Scott Juskiewicz (Montana Tech of the University of Montana, USA) and Betsy Harper Garlish (Montana Tech of the University of Montana, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1897-8.ch021
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Weeding book collections and collaborating with faculty are necessary activities for academic libraries. Librarians, however, are often reluctant to remove books from collections and collaborating with faculty is often viewed as a difficult affair. In the fall of 2008 the Montana Tech Library, a small university library specializing in engineering, the sciences, and medicine, successfully collaborated with teaching faculty to weed the entire book collection. This chapter discusses how to successfully collaborate with faculty and offers advice on how to overcome the hesitation associated with weeding. Successful collaboration and overcoming the reservations of weeding can ultimately lead to the creation of a true “use collection” generated by customer driven collection development.
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Weeding books in a library collection is just as important as purchasing new titles. However, as Eleanor Dubicki (2008) points out, “There is a general reluctance among librarians to remove any books from library collections” (p. 132). This reluctance may stem from the idea that someone at sometime may wish to use a book on the shelf, so it should be kept for that purpose. This is sometimes referred to as the “just in case” model of collection development. Additionally, for many libraries and librarians collection size relates to value (Engeldinger, 1999). Thus, historically the thought has been that no book should be discarded unless devaluing the collection is a priority of the institution. Agreeing with Engeldinger (1999) on collection size, Dubicki (2008) also points out that lack of experience in weeding from the librarians’ viewpoint, and time constraints as well as the notion that a book might be used in the future are all reasons why weeding is viewed as a burden to libraries and librarians. The authors, however, feel that these ideas need to be reassessed.

If a collection becomes too unwieldy, many users will not succeed in locating appropriate materials; thus, it is actually counter-productive to keep all items on the shelf. If time restrictions make it impossible for libraries to weed an entire collection at once, (as was the case at MT Tech), it is worthwhile to weed on a piece meal basis. Weeding in this manner provides experience at the task and should be minimally invasive to a librarian’s time. If librarians do not weed, how will they gain that much needed weeding experience? By separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff, librarians can create or build a collection that is tailored more to their patrons needs. Tailoring a collection to faculty and student needs also keeps the collection in line with the school’s curriculum and academic mission. At the same time, it allows users to easily discover the books that are of most value to them.

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