or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

#PLA12 Weeding in the Digital Age

   March 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I'm still unpacking from PLA12 two weeks ago, and just came across notes I took during a great session on Weeding in the Digital Age. I know it's two weeks late, but it's still relevant. The discussion was led by Alene Moroni (Manager, Selection and Order, King County Library System), Stephanie Chase (Reference, Adult Services, and Programming Coordinator, Multnomah County Library), and Kaite Stover (Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Library).

Program Description:

The explosion in formats for leisure materials is a challenge for all aspects of collection management, especially weeding and evaluation. Join a discussion that asks librarians to consider format, space, use, and building design when evaluating materials in all formats for withdrawal from the collection.

We should hold digital collections to the same standards as print collections - this means weeding out the unused and out-of-date to avoid eclutter.

Tips for Weeding Digital Collections

  • Do you weed your Overdrive catalog? It's not easy (you need to do the legwork yourself, and email Overdrive directly), but their interface is difficult enough to search so that if something isn't getting used, then it's getting in the way
  • Look for overlap in research databases, and then cut the unnecessary ones
  • Your access and finding tools can go a long way to cutting through the clutter - look for better catalog/database search interfaces, or create web-based pathfinders with direct links into databases

Thoughts on Formats

  • Watch for genre+format preferences that emerge (and listen to what patrons tell you). For instance, perhaps your mystery print books don't circulate much, because mystery reader prefer digital - but perhaps just the opposite is true for westerns. If that's the case, then get rid of your westerns ebooks and focus on mysteries
  • Large print physical books are not dying, even though ereaders can do large print
  • Younger patrons are often format-agnostic: if they can get their book in print, ebook, book on CD, downloadable audiobook, etc, they're happy

But remember: just about anything you're getting in digital format now can be taken away with a mere licensing change - what then?

I liked this session a lot because it hadn't occurred to me to weed ebooks. I have done some of that with databases, but certainly not Overdrive. It's also good to hear how other libraries balance print and online purchasing - for instance, we subscribe to the Safari Computer Ebooks database, and so have cut back on our print computer books.

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“Awful Library Books” Author on Weeding

   December 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Weeding List at the Manchester (NH) LibraryRuth from Artifact Collectors emailed me a link to her interview with the author of Awful Library Books, Holly Hibner.

The interview is about the weeding process, the weeded books and what happens to them after they have been weeded. If you like it, please feel free to share it with your readers!

I did like it, so here you go. Most librarians will know the details, but I always like hearing ideas for what to do with weeded books - and of course, the books that show up on Awful Library Books are always entertaining.

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Reference Question of the Week – 9/6/09

   September 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

velvetleafHere's another question with a patron bringing in an object and asking us to identify it - but this time was surprisingly easy.

A patron walks up the the desk with some big plant parts and asks, "do you know what this is? It's a great big bush in my cucumber patch."

I'm not great at plant identification. While I was considering the best approach, the patron pulled out two more pods like those on the plant, except that they were dried and the seeds inside rattled when he shook them. He kept saying that he's never seen seed pods like that on a weed before.

Since I didn't have any great ideas, I just did a search for "weed seed pod bush." Much to my surprise, and to the patron's astonishment, a picture of his seed pods showed up on the second page.

Clicking into the page told us this plant was called "velvet leaf" so we did another search for velvetleaf to verify the information.

Between the websites we looked at and a few plant books we had on the shelf, the patron was torn between considering this an "invasive weed" or an "ornamental flower" (which reminded me of something a friend's dad once said: a weed is any plant that's growing where you don't want it to grow).

In the end, the patron decided to pull them all out, and happily left us what he brought in as "a bouquet for the staff." I was happy too, because this is one of those questions that could have taken all day to answer - it's nice to get lucky once in awhile.

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