Out with the Old, In with the New (KLC Closing Keynote)

Awful Library Books @awfullibbooks


Holly Hiber and Mary Kelly, authors of Making a collection count : a holistic approach to library collection management

People come to libraries to get the materials that meet their needs. We need to have the right info for them, that is correct.

Gotta care about your library.

Bad information on library shelves doesn’t help anyone.

Are you proud of your library? Are you defensive? Best we can do with limited funds & space.

There are still things you can do…even just a little bit. You can do it with no excuses, no defensiveness, even if you’re the only one who starts changing.

Everything is connected. Holistic library service. Everything is connected. If there’s a breakdown in the system, you break the whole chain. If the computers go down, it’s the apocalypse.

Think of the library as a whole. What you do, affects the bigger picture and the public. Everything library does is for the good of the patron.

Collection Management Life Cycle. Development = growth. Management = cycle. Every piece of this, you have to manage each step of the cycle.

  • Select
  • Acquisitions
  • Processing & Cataloging
  • Shelving
  • Checkout (Use)
  • Re-Shelving
  • Repair & Maintenance
  • Weed or Replace

What’s good? Put into context, individual local flavor (remove local history collection, for example, when analyzing age of collection). Standard levels in Michigan with some details, similar to the Public Library standards in Kansas.


  • 20% collection < 6 years old, Weeds 4%/yr
  • Provides braodband at least 1.5 MB
  • ILS support z39.50


  • 20% collection < 6 years old
  • Has an ILS
  • Provides wifi for public use


  • 15% of collection < 6 years old
  • Offers renewal service
  • At least one computer for local use

“A good library is like a good haircut. It’s not what you cut — it’s what you leave.” What you’re presenting to your public. Horrible books that are highlighted by Awful Library Books may highlight bigger problems.

“The way the library presents itself, matters.”

Dirty shelving. Signage (not friendly; can be a barrier to collection access; irrelevant — turn signage into positives). “Please share your thoughts on this book”. Non-welcoming signage.

Computer use policy in 10-pt policy. No gum. Trend of one.

No coupons printing — if everyone is asking for it, maybe make a way for it to happen.

Confusing library signage. If you don’t want people to use something, move it.

Crammed-full shelves. Patrons are over-whelmed. Choose the best, of the best. Make more space. Pull out the recently returned on a cart, people go through this first. Make a display. Lengthen checkout time. No checkout limit.

Full library offices very near to the office, including server equipment. Affecting co-workers — space could be used so much better.

Everyone can have a clean space, and maintain what you have. Well-lit. Open aisles, no extra signage. Face-front displays. You can do the best you can do with what you have.

Don’t make excuses, make changes! – Tony Gaskins

“But we’ve always done it that way…”

  • 8-track tapes
  • vinyl records
  • player-piano scrolls
  • are these meant to be part of your collection?
  • Special collections can be important & cool
    • tool sharing (Gross Pointe PL)
    • vintage youth collection, put by the adult collection (Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, etc.)
    • Display of stuff you brag about that you read, but you never did

“But the public/board doesn’t ‘get’ it”

  • Horrible weeding practices — no communication with the public. (Urbana PL (Ill.), Fairfax Library (Va.)) Talk about it.
  • Go slow with weeding — 15 mins a day. You will never be done weeding. It should be just as constant as selection.
  • Keep awful library books behind the desk to show public/board why you weed.
  • Terminology — selecting for the book sale vs. “getting rid of old stuff”
  • You are partners with the community, don’t rip off the band-aid — go slow.
  • Sticky notes vs. receipts — do you know how much money this saves? Time? Money & Efficiency speeches. But also work with people….
  • Some of this gets at the public doesn’t know what libraries do…but when libraries show the public know what the library can do, people start to get it. Not just about the collection.

But we don’t have time

  • You can do all sorts of things, instead of saying, you don’t have time.
  • Make time and priorities.
  • Directors/managers/supervisors set example and help staff prioritize time — staff ask for help prioritizing tasks
  • If you keep up with weeding, it won’t take much time, maintaining weeding (15 min. a week); won’t wreck your life with a project.
  • You’re never going to be done weeding or buying for the collection.
  • Get help from other people — ask for help. Have others pull the stuff from a report. Break down the list. Make it small.

“But it’s historical”

  • Example: Why President Nixon should be impeached (ACLU) — academic library yes might need this kept, but public & school libraries? Do they need this kind of book?
  • Is a historical book more important than something else?

But someone might need it

  • Crafting books — Pinterest
  • Is the information available somewhere else? If they need it, where can they get it from?
  • Libraries don’t collect things (books), we collect information and can get it in a variety of ways.

But we won’t have anything left

  • Are you actually buying what people need?
  • It’s worse to have a bunch of awfulness, than to have nothing physical on your shelves and in electronic form
  • Do a needs analysis — figure out what you can offer differently; what services can you offer? Market those.
  • Book Express — holds branding

But it’s in good shape

  • Information still valid?
  • Information till current?
  • Function — not in the right place?
  • What don’t you see anymore because it’s been there forever?

Weeding personalities

  • Hoarder — sentimental feelings about books/things.
  • Randomizer — weeds too casually, recklessly (Urbana PL); don’t think of bigger picture/workflow
  • Professor — CREW method to the letter; won’t make change without data
  • Snob — people must have seminal works of certain authors; don’t understand nontraditional library service.

Ideally, we’re a combo of all of these personalities, but in reality, we lean heavily on some of these.

When you’re weeding, and you’re wishy-washy about one title, that’s okay. But if you’re wishy-washy about everything, it’s a problem.

Library quality starts with me. Somebody has to be the one to start the change. Stop making excuses and do something. I have an idea and it can solve 3 problems. Managers, do a task yourself, and not above doing these things, model it, and people will notice and get on board.

Nothing we say, applies to everyone. You must know your community, its needs, who you’re library serves.

Don’t be sentimental. Visit similar libraries, as a patron, and see what you see. Compare yourself to them. How do you feel as a patron in your place vs. their place?

Where to sent weeded books?

HW Children Database — good list, but if some titles don’t work for you library, weed them.

What to do with series if not all being read? Keep all or first part of series to get people hooked, and ILL the rest, if available. Same with magazines & back issues.

Collections need a goal, a purpose, and will help make benchmarks. Who do you have access to for other materials?