BFTP: Keeping Your Library Collection Smelling F.R.E.S.H!
One of my heroes, Doug Johnson, includes a "Blast From The Past" post on his blog each week. As Doug describes it:
"A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past."
I love these posts, because they give me the opportunity to revisit Doug's previous thoughts on a topic while also considering how those thoughts have evolved over time. Let me be clear, I'm no Doug Johnson. But after 10 years of blogging in this space, there are definitely some posts that I'd like to revisit. As I learn and grow, so too does my thinking around our work.
Having said all that, and with a hearty hat-tip to Doug for the inspiration, this is my first BFTP: Blast From The Past revision of a previous post!
Original Post: Keeping Your Library Collection FRESH!
Original Publication Date: October 1, 2013
In the original post, I addressed the concerns of some librarians I was working with at the time.
"Specifically, they were concerned about getting rid of old materials when their collections are already small and there's no money to replace the discards with shiny new replacements."
I continue to hear these same concerns today. And as I said in the first post, as someone who has never worked in a school district where funds were allotted specifically to school libraries, I get where they come from. When you have to raise every penny spent on books yourself, it can be even harder to discard materials. But here's the thing... that's faulty thinking that only perpetuates library neglect. Failing to weed doesn't actually provide your students with more resources. Here's what it does instead:
Failing to weed hides the fact that you need more resources from those who are in a position to help provide them.
Failing to weed hides the few quality resources you DO have in a never ending sea of spine labels that most kids drown in long before they ever find the book they need.
Failing to weed doesn't change the reality of your collection. Failing to weed only hides it.
I cannot stress this enough: Not having a budget is not an excuse to forego weeding. Rather, it should be a motivator to weed even more regularly and thoroughly. Failing to do so only puts you at a disadvantage when advocating for more resources for kids.
Seven years after the original post, It still remains among the most popular on this site, often getting hundreds of hits each week. I'm convinced this has a lot to do with the flyer that I created to help guide librarians as they consider items for deselection. (An aside; over the years, I've seen this flyer hanging in countless libraries and each and every time is a thrill for me. It may sound strange, but seeing something I've created in "the wild" is always a wonderful, completely unlikely, surprise. Anyway, if this flyer (or any of the others I've created) currently lives in your library: thank you. I'm very grateful!)
Looking at it now, there's very little I'd change about the flyer itself. However, part of why I chose to revisit this post is because I wanted to add to the the information I shared originally.
Over the last few years, I've had the joy of working with the librarians of Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver, WA as their "consultant in residence." One of the big projects we've been working on as part of this residency, has been an initiative to create more inclusive, equitable and culturally responsive school library spaces/collections district wide. I will no doubt write more about this work later, but for now it's important to know that weeding has been a huge part of our journey. Here's how weeding has informed our work:
Weeding enables librarians to get rid of resources that rely on negative stereotypes and tropes.
Weeding provides librarians with more physical space to house newer, more up to date resource that feature authentic representation of marginalized voices.
Weeding provides librarians with more physical space to amplify those voices, and build bridges between them and readers, through signage and displays.
It's impossible to advocate accurately for necessary resources if your collection is cluttered with outdated, culturally damaging materials. In order to give district leaders a clear picture of current holdings, we had to get rid of the clutter.
With that in mind, I'm adding a presentation I created for EPS as a part of this revision to my original post on weeding.
Towards the end of the original post I wrote...
"We are not archivists. We are educators. We are not curators of book museums. We are conduits of information. Our job is to connect our patrons (be they students or teachers or other members of our school community) with the BEST resources available."
I still very much believe this to be true. While I do understand how it can feel counter intuitive to discard materials when there's little-no money to replace them, failing to do so only supports that status quo. Weeding must be an ongoing and continuous part of maintaining library collections for many reasons, but most important among them is because doing so helps us better advocate for kids.