Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Weeding Blind

dragon reading a book

Bye bye, dinosaurs. photo courtesy: SDRandCo @ Morguefile

I love weeding. I love diving into stats sheets, pulling the cruddy books out of circulation, finding those battered favorites that need to be replaced, and winding up with beautifully shiny shelves with plenty of space for displays. But my method is all in disarray now!

I used to start by running a report on anything that hadn’t circulated in the past two years. Or one year, or three years, but two usually worked pretty well. I can’t do that now because our new ILS wiped out all last activity dates when the data migrated (we knew this would happen – it wasn’t a surprise). I’ve been lamenting this lack of information for a while now. How will I weed when the time comes? I love my spreadsheets! I miss them! I need them.

The other day while walking a teen back to the stacks, I realized that a few sections were just out of control – shelvers had lain books across the top of the shelves because there wasn’t room to shelve them correctly. I found an ancient, yellowing bound paperback copy of Little Women. A first printing of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever, 1793 from 2000 – yes, that’s 16 years ago now–and a paperback of the reading list favorite House on Mango Street with a book pocket and a typewriter-stamped accession date: 3/1996. Another book I pulled off the shelf and the cover was so sticky, it brought the adjacent book with it. Ugh! Gross! I clearly needed to weed, and without the tools I was accustomed to I had to approach the problem in a different way.

I took a step back and looked at the shelves the way the teens would. What looks a little too well loved? What looks dated? What looks brand new (but actually isn’t)? Which series are complete on the shelf (which means they’re not being read)? Which books have multiple copies but aren’t in high demand? I pulled book after book and quickly filled a whole cart. With my cart full of dusty, sad looking books I rolled back to the desk and started scanning them in to see if any had circulated since the new system was installed. A few, like Fever and Mango, had come back recently, and clearly needed to be replaced. But most of them hadn’t. The “be ruthless like teen readers are” method had worked and it had saved me time in running reports, time in sorting and organizing my spreadsheet, and time in searching only for the titles that were on the list.

It’s not a perfect method. This kind of weeding doesn’t achieve the other goal I have when I take my spreadsheets to the stacks, which is discovering what isn’t circulating because it is missing. It doesn’t find those books that still look good but aren’t getting checked out. It’s inevitably going to miss things that should be weeded. But it catches things that clearly haven’t been weeded in a while and ought to have been.

One method–even a good method–can’t be the only method we use to get our jobs done. Shaking up our methods is going to shake up our results. Now I’m trying to look with fresh eyes at other tasks that I’ve honed down to smoothly refined procedures over the years. I’m hopeful that I’ll find some new ways of doing things that will lead to improvements across the board. I’m also hopeful that the fresh life my shelves have been given will draw more teen readers in, and help them find some new favorites to sink into this winter.

January is a chance for fresh starts. What will you be trying to do in a new way in this new year?


  1. I had a similar problem – our system was down and I couldn’t access the reports I wanted, so strolled over to see if anything was popping out at me. Thirty minutes later, I had 50 books pulled for a variety of reasons (yellowed pages, ripped pages, dust, clear non-use). A double check when the system was back up and running found about five were in recent circulation, but the rest? Gone, baby, gone. Love the eye scan — it isn’t a perfect method by any means, but you’re so right in that we need to think like a teen at times in order ensure maximum visibility for items on the shelves.


  1. […] do you weed? Heather Booth at the Teen Librarian Toolbox writes about Weeding Blind after a move to a new […]

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