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Keep, Toss, Buy: How the Library Figures It Out
Libraries have always seemed like a giant magic closet to me. Somehow the old thing you want is in there. Yet, the new thing that looks interesting is also in there. The biggest difference is that I can actually find both things at the library, unlike the cartoon closet where everything falls on your head when you open the door.
The New York Times article of December 27, “Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close,” gives some insight into how today’s libraries operate when it comes to stocking the shelves. “A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things people want,” according to Jason Kuhl, executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
When I spoke to our library’s director, Mary Chasseur, she agreed – to an extent. Here’s how our library deals with its space issues and makes decisions about what we can find when we walk through the door.
First, I wondered how does the library decide what not to keep on the shelves any longer? That has to be some kind of an organized system. And it is. Mary showed me that they use the CREW system of weeding books – Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding. Every librarian working there is assigned a section of the library to review quarterly. And those sections rotate from one librarian to another so that there are fresh eyes on all sections.
If a book is less than five years old, it’s safe, generally speaking, and stays on the shelves. Exceptions to this usually are non-fiction books that become dated quickly such as medical books.
If a book has been checked out two or three times in the last year, its position on the shelves is safe for now, but it’s under watch. When circulation drops to almost nothing on a book, there are some other factors to consider. Is it part of a series? Is it readily available from MEL (the Michigan Electronic Library)?
During quarterly reviews, books might be tagged as being in poor condition but still popular. In that case, the library buys a new copy for circulation. And then there are books that, whether they are checked out rarely or not, the library has a professional obligation to have on hand. The American Library Association recommends that libraries keep what they term “core collections” of fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. As Mary said, “If someone were to come in here and ask for one of those and we didn’t have it, it would be embarrassing.”
The library is aware that it serves diverse needs and people, and it is open to suggestions. If there is a book you really think the library should have available for you, ask about it. It won’t take too many requests for that book to make its appearance. When there are a number of people waiting for a book that’s very popular, that triggers the purchase of another copy of the book.
Even though some books won’t make the grade of the core collection, they are popular for a while. Mary uses the example of the “Shades of Grey” series. It is likely, she said, that in a few years those books would end up in the library book sale. But for now, the library is meeting the needs of its patrons.
The library’s magic closet, unlike my own, is an organized, logical collection, and responsive to the public. See you at the Library!
Special Upcoming Events: Free Family Movie Matinee: Frankenweenie, rated PG, popcorn provided, Saturday, Jan. 19 from 1–2:30pm. All ages welcomed. Krafty Kids will be upcycling old CD's into new treasures Monday, Jan. 28, 6:30–8pm for ages 8 and up. We are accepting donations of CD's and plastic CD holders. Parents are invited to craft with us, but not required. Story times continue.
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