Friday, January 4, 2013

The Line in the Sand

Weeding books is never fun, but it sure is interesting. Pulling book after book after book off the shelf there are lots of check out stamps from the 1980's to 90's, and then they dwindle to nothing after 1998. It was the line in the information sand that marked a tipping point. Internet access to databases and academic web searches became more relevant than book-based resources. This isn't news to librarians, but for me the stark reality confirmed that we are doing the right thing. We are going book-less.

The check out slip in the back of a book tells a story almost as interesting as that contained between the covers. Some books remain virginal, their bindings never cracked. Others have check out slips almost black with due date stamps. And then there are runs of books that have current due date stamps. These are the topics of regular research assignments. I know the teachers and the papers, and that the print resources play a small role in the research activity.

Going book-less does not mean there will be no print and the shelves will be thrown away. It is a philosophy. Until the terrain around publishing e-book contracts and technology devices settles and industry standards emerge, there will still be print versions of high interest fiction and non-fiction. Meanwhile, the bulk of the research and reference collections will go digital.

This is the line in our sand. My goal is to get the nonfiction collection age up from 1986 to the 2000's. Six years ago it was 1936 (!), so we have already made a lot of progress.  Last year we got fiction up to 2001, and this included a lot of replacement of battered but relevant classics.

No hand wringing. Out they go.

(For those interested, we are using the MUSTY protocol for weeding. SUNY Fredonia Reed Library has a very nice MUSTY resource page.)


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