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Weeding

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Weeding in the library

Weeding in the library

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  • One of the most inspiring ideas in librarianship is S. R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science. The third law is”Every book, its reader.” This law, in Ranganathan’s words, "urge[s] that an appropriate reader should be found for every book.” Robert Shaw’s 1938 experiment with library shelving proved that library shelves do not allow all books equal chance to be seen by patrons. The graphs in this slide reveal the difference in circulation caused by differences in exposure to patrons. Books on lower shelves are harder to see and reach than books on upper shelves. Shelves further back in libraries are less likely to be browsed than shelves in the front of the library. Look at the circulation pattern of the shelves in the top graph. I have seen this exact same pattern on each section of a whole range of shelves weeded in Great Bend Public Library. The one exception from this pattern was the section with Danielle Steel books shelved on the lowest shelves. Weeding based on past circulation is a measure of circulation. If you see this pattern when you weed, then about 45% of the books you are weeding from the lowest shelves are being removed because they are shelved on the lower shelves, not because they are unwanted by patrons. At least 24% of the books you are removing from the back shelves is because they are on the back shelves and not because they are unwanted. Weeding books because of their location is unethical. Fortunately, there are two things you can do to correct this injustice. First, your book displays should be stocked with books from the lower shelves and the back of the library. Second, weeded books should be displayed before they are completely removed from the library.
  • Based on work of Belinda Boone, Texas
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