In the Weeds: 600s & 610s

E. Roediger - Evaluation & Weeding Assignment (FRIT 7332)

TOPIC AREA AND JUSTIFICATION

Our media center currently serves approximately 450 students in grades 6-12, along with an additional 115 faculty and staff members. Students not only frequent the library in search of materials that meet their own personal reading needs, but they also occasionally come as part of a class that has requested assistance with a particular research project or assignment. For example, every student is required to write at least one yearly research paper in his English class, and topics are grade-specific. Our 9th graders must choose from a topic list centered around science and technology subjects, which means I can count on 75 students needing access to high quality research materials in the 600s and 610s (along with additional science sections) every year. Our English curriculum mandates that students know how to locate, use, and cite print sources, so students do not have the option of relying solely on research materials found through electronic database or subscription services. They have to pick something up off the shelves, a requirement most students greatly dislike.

Our 9th graders conduct their research projects in the fall, and while helping students locate a print source in the media center this past year, I noticed a dearth of quality books in the 600 and 610 sections. It was difficult for students to find relevant and accurate information in print form; most students only chose a book to use for research in order to fulfill the assignment requirements, not because they found the book to be truly helpful.

The 600 and 610 sections contain materials about technology, medicine, and health--subjects that may change rapidly in the span of just a few years. Books in these sections should be no more than ten years old. Upon running a few reports in Destiny, our library management system, I discovered that the average age of books in the 600s was 30 years, and the average age of books in the 610s was 20 years! No wonder students had been dreading their print source requirement. The media center should (and will!) do a much better job of providing not only 9th graders but all patrons with better print materials in these two sections, but first I need to weed these shelves heavily and figure out which materials are worth keeping.

EVALUATION BASED ON PRINCIPLES AND DATA

Initial Visual Inspection.

I would pull 23 titles from the total number of 132 based on their appearance and physical condition alone.
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As Seen on the Shelf: MUSTY Greatest Hits.

I was able to pull quite a few titles using the MUSTY principle for weeding. The books pictured below are some of the best examples of MUSTY that I found in our 600 and 610 sections.

Using the Data from Destiny.

In addition to using a quick visual inspection and the MUSTY principle to help me weed the 600 and 610 sections, I used data pulled from our Destiny system, the results of which are summarized below. I also looked for unnecessary duplicate copies, biases and stereotypes in subject/language, overall appropriateness for our patrons, and relevancy to curriculum guides.

Destiny Reports Summary:

  • Only 21 of the 132 titles are less than 10 years old.
  • Only 24 of 132 have been checked out in the last year.
  • 73 of 132 have not been checked out in the last 5 years.
  • 58 of 132 have not been checked out in the last 10 years.
  • Only 7 titles in the 600-609 range, 6 of which have not been checked out in the last 10 years.
  • Only 5 titles purchased since 2010.
  • Most popular topics by overall circulation history: eating disorders, mental disorders, and depression.
  • Most popular titles by recent circulation history (4+ checkouts in the last year): The History of Medicine (2002) by Lisa Yount, Your Food is Fooling You (2013) by David Kessler, Anorexia and Bulimia (2002) by Alison Cotter, and Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment (2013) by Carla McClafferty.
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EVALUATION BASED ON CURRICULAR NEEDS

My school is private/independent, so we're not bound to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS). However, we do use CCGPS as a guide when building new and refining existing curriculum, and the increased emphasis on informational and nonfiction texts is something we have wholeheartedly embraced.

When reviewing the CCGPS benchmarks for science literacy in grades 9-12, it is clear that our current 600 and 610 sections would not adequately support students or teachers in their quest to attain CCGPS necessary skills. The lack of accuracy and relevancy of our current 600 and 610 materials inside of a 21st century context due to age is an obvious issue of concern; for example, the CCGPS biology standards stress the importance of clear and accurate investigation, analysis of scientific data using precision and inference, and the ability to read and translate information into a variety of visual formats. Given that the 600 and 610 sections impede a relevant and useful retrieval of information due to their limited scope and outdated content, students could not be expected to use our library materials in support of their achieving the CCGPS recommended skills and concepts. They would be better off not visiting these sections of the library at all. Since biology is a required course for all 9th grade students at my school, weeding down and rebuilding our science and technology sections will better position the media center to guide and supplement the current science curriculum. Having a renewed focus on these sections will also allow us to better support the English curriculum since, as previously mentioned, all 9th grade students are required to conduct a research project on a science topic in their English classes.

Many of the CCGPS in science correlate directly to AASL Standards for 21st-Century Learners, as evidenced by the AASL's Standards Crosswalk in Science/Technology. The crosswalk demonstrates a need for library materials that showcase an importance of context, demonstrate a clear connection between claim and evidence, and enable students to create new understanding from visual information. When deciding which of our 600s and 610s to keep in the collection, I will be looking for books with a clear focus and multiple perspectives as well as those with dynamic visual representations of data. These texts should stress an inquiry-based approach to information that encourages students to think critically about what they're reading.
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A word cloud of Common Core Reading and Literacy Standards in Science and Technology combined with AASL's Standards for 21st-Century Learners.

WEEDING LIST

Given that age seems to be a problem in our current 600 and 610 sections, I should immediately pull any book that is over 10 years old. All of the books I had initially pulled using a visual inspection and the MUSTY principle are included in this 10+ years group. Out of the original 132 titles, I'll only have 21 left that fall inside the age limit. Of those 21 titles, 2 have been missing from the shelf for several years and should be deleted from the electronic card catalog, which leaves me with 19.

To those 19, I've decided to add back 2 titles that are outside the 10 year cutoff. These books were two of our most circulated in the 600 and 610 sections for the past year--The History of Medicine (2002) by Lisa Yount and Anorexia and Bulimia (2002) by Alison Cotter--and until I can find updated replacements, I'd like to leave them as options for our patrons. These additions mean my count is back up to 21.

Of these 21 titles, only 6 have been checked out in the past year. Instead of stripping the shelves completely and leaving only these 6 titles, I'd like to spend a year rebuilding on the 21 and see if they go through higher circulation. Because the 600 and 610 sections have been neglected for so long, it's possible that students have stopped visiting them altogether except in cases of dire research need. If I can spend some time and money on new materials and showcase these sections as areas of renewed focus, I'd like to think all titles, including those with previously poor circulation statistics, would see more checkouts. I'm willing to give it a try. This strategy means that I'll need to earmark a large portion of next year's print budget for 600 and 610 titles. I'd also like to focus the fall's annual fundraising activities on efforts to rebuild our science and technology sections.

A full list of 600 and 610 items to be weeded may be viewed here. The highlighted titles are the 21 that will remain in the collection.
"Reporting for Weeding Duty."
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"So how can libraries avoid nasty weeding controversies? For one thing, it’s good to weed out the term 'weeding.' A better name would be the 'library collection refreshment program.' Next, get rid of the goods in the middle of the night under the cloak of darkness. Make sure the weeds are packed (appropriately enough) in large black yard bags. Do your weeding in the autumn when you can camouflage the books with fallen leaves." --Will Manley, from his column "Will's World" in the January/February 2014 issue of American Libraries.

DISPOSAL AND POLICY REVIEW

Again, since my school is independent, our weeding procedures are not governed by a local board of education policy. While our media center handbook has an extensive section on weeding selection tips and a timeline for when to review certain sections of the library, we have no written policy on record for how to dispose of weeded items. This lack of written policy is something I will seek to remedy in the coming year.

Luckily, the topic of weeding has recently come up in one of my professional organizations, Georgia Independent School Librarians (GISL). Many of us have been trading policy tips and trusted weeding and disposal procedures via our listserv for the past several weeks. Combined with what I know to be my school's "unofficial" policy on weeding, these words of wisdom from fellow GISL members will better help me decide what to do with weeded items. I know that for now, at least, I should follow these steps:

  • Remove all spine labels, barcodes, or other stickers (such as dedication/donation stickers).
  • Cover the school stamp and crest with a black marker.
  • Delete the title from our automated card catalog system.
  • If the information in the books is still relevant and accurate, offer them to teachers who might be interested. We also offer books with large color photos to the fine arts department for use in visual arts projects.
  • If teachers are not interested in books that are still usable, we box them up and deliver them to a local charity organization that distributes these books to members of the community.
  • If the books are inaccurate or irrelevant due to age, offensive due to bias or stereotype, or too damaged to be of good use, we then recycle them. Paperback books may be recycled as-is. For hardcover books, only the pages are recyclable, so we pull off the covers and spine beforehand.