Monday, April 15, 2013

Weeding: A sad, sad story.

So it's 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning and I am SOBBING in the stacks. Messy, blubbery, gasping sobs. Why? I don't want to remove Constance Greene's A Girl Called Al from the shelf. It was published in 1969. It was ten years old when I read it. It's now 43 years old, which is the 1979 equivalent of a book from 1936. The book has not been checked out since 2005. That's 2/3 of these kids' lives.

And it kind of needs some glue. Not in good shape.

I had a weeding epiphany this week when I had students help me remove books from the shelves. The stark reality is that if I buy 600 books a year (and my budget isn't that large, but my money management skills and ability to get free books are EPIC!), things have to go. Not only for space, but if I am constantly trying to give The Moves Make the Man to boys who want basketball books who check it out and bring it back right away, what am I doing?

The books in my library collection represent a huge amount of my time, since I have read all of the fiction. If I read the book and thought it wasn't good at the time, I got rid of it. Now the collection is full of books that I liked. This is not, however, always indicative of what students will like. And it's their library.

I used to think that if the content were good, I should keep the book. This week I came to realize that styles change, books become weary, and my idea of OLD and the students' idea of old are wildly different. Also, I thought that if a book was super awesome, it didn't matter if the back cover was taped back on and there was a huge mud stain on the front page. This is not true for my students.

The bottom line is that I want students to get excited about reading and books. It's better to have a lean and mean collection with a bunch of fresh, awesome books than to pack the shelves with multiple copies of Madeleine L'Engle books in various stages of disintegration.

I will chant this to myself all day as students peel my fingers from crumbling copies of Fitzgerald's The Great Brain, Robertson's Henry Reed, and duplicate copies of The Chronicles of Narnia. And little piles of paper that were once Lois Duncan and Joan Lowery Nixon books. The students are letting me keep The Mark of Conte, Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, and some sports books from the early 70s that still circulate.

They also hand me tissues.


timetraveltimestwo said...

They also hand me tissues--great line! I loved this post.

Jennifer said...

I love Henry Reed! If it makes you feel better, I kept him on my shelves - the books are in good condition and they still circulate! I must admit I don't get too emotional over weeding (unless you count the arguments with my director over what I can and cannot delete) but I did leave all the John Bellairs on the shelf b/c darn it kids, you keep asking for scary stories and THESE ARE SUPER SCARY STORIES FULL OF AWESOMENESS.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Henry Reed?! I LOVED Henry Reed. I've been afraid to read the 5th book in the series, which I only found out about as an adult, in case it's not as good. Have you read it? I think it has something to do with space travel.

Ms. Yingling said...

I have Think Tank, but don't remember space travel. Were you maybe thinking of Danny Dunn? Henry is staying!

Kathy Burnette said...

I love weeding. No, I don't. I am trying to update some Judy Blume books in the hopes that they will then get checked out. Like you, I realize I need to stay on top of what kids want to read.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Yes, it was Think Tank! My library doesn't have any Henry Reeds (they weed too aggressively, imo)--but I am going to track it down. Who is Danny Dunn??

Jennifer said... said...

Lucky students to have such a dedicated librarian! I LOVED all The Great Brain books as a kid. I'm sorry you have to weed, here's another tissue. :)

Unknown said...

The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds hasn't been read since 1999, but I still keep trotting it out. *sniff* I'm a middle school teacher with a 2k book library. I love your blog and don't want to be a book hoarder, but I'm not sure how to cull. Any tips? How do you have students help you? Do you ever have weeder's regret? Thank you for writing.

Mrs. Armstrong said...

May I also ask if there are any resources out there that explain the science/art of culling? Are there different theories or fields of thoughts? I can chuck the dusty ones, but is there anything else I should know? Thanks again!

Darla D said...

I totally feel your pain! It can be rough to make those decisions. Puppies do help! :-)

Lorena Swetnam said...

I'm in the middle of weeding and it's heart wrenching work. Your posts are helping me feel OK about it. Thanks for sharing :)

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