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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weeding: An Example.

I think we’ve mentioned before that we’re currently weeding our collection. In theory, we were done weeding the reference collection last year, but in reality, a few shelves were overlooked, and therefore, I’m making my way through the many, many volumes.

Weeding is a tough business: on the one hand, you want an updated collection. On the other, this means you have to get rid of items that some other long-ago librarian recommended for purchase. At times it is obvious that a book’s tenure has expired (price guides published in the 80s, for example, are shown the door immediately), while other books’ worth is pretty wishy-washy.

I’m currently examining the New York Times Directory of the Theater. It reprints articles from the Times having to do with theater awards and reviews, and indexes actors and actresses. For instance, if you look up Emeline Roach, a costume designer, you get a list of all the shows she designed for, as well as the dates that articles pertaining to the shows ran in the paper. What a great resource!

Here comes the bad news: it was published in 1973. While not every resource from 1973 should automatically be tossed out the window (I should hope not--I was born in 1973!), a print reference resource with a 1973 cutoff date is hard to justify keeping. If this were a university with a theater studies program, I would run back over to the shelf with this book in my arms and apologize for ever doubting it. (Although I would probably use a book truck, and maybe just saunter over; this book has 1009 pages, after all.) There’s also the fact that The New York Times also has its complete archives online now; these articles are just a search away, and so I must say goodbye to the Directory of the Theater.

A useful tool for weeding guidance is the acronym MUSTY:

M is for misleading. This means the book contains factually inaccurate information (such as How Y2K Will Kill Us All).

U is for ugly, as in the cover of this book in hanging on by a thread and it appeared someone has been ill on its pages.

S is for superceded. There may be a newer edition of the same title available for purchase, or a better, newer title already in the collection.

T is for trivial. This is the hardest one for me! Sometimes silly, trivial books with absolutely no merit are fun to look at. But then again, the Hippie’s Guide to Living in Your VW Van has had its moment in the sun. (Note: while that title is made up, when I first started here six years ago, I weeded a similar title!)

Y is for your collection has no use. Sometimes a great book is just in the wrong library. (For instance, the Library Commission’s general resource collection does not contain fiction.) We offer our weeded materials to public libraries, so this helps assuage my guilt.

Writing this blog post has been a nice respite from the stacks, but I better get back to it. I think I hear some musty books calling my name.


  1. I'm really enjoying your fun and informative blog! About that theater reference though, I've heard the New York Times will soon be charging again for their archives like they used to, so I hope you won't throw things away thinking they're stuff will always be free.

  2. This is true about the Times charging for content. We've got the regular paper indexes and the whole run on microfilm as well!


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