Spring Cleaning Your Collection

“A novel of aspiring proportions, hauntingly well-written…”

“A triumph”.

“…gripping, unbearably sad, yet irresistible…”

“I was amazed and moved beyond belief.”

“…promises to be a joy forever……”


“…a truly fine, original book…”

“An absolute spellbinder.”

“…unforgettably beautiful…”

I know you must be wondering what extraordinary book or books these critical blurbs describe. Would you believe that I found all of these on the back covers of novels I have weeded out of our collection this year?

Why are we weeding out these seemingly amazing tomes, you ask? Some books are weeded because they are in horrible disrepair. Others have outdated information and need to be replaced with updated content. I’ve weeded both of these types of books in the past. This year, however, we’ve focused mostly on gaining shelf space in our cramped library by weeding the wallflowers in our fiction section.  You know the books. These little guys haven’t been checked out for years and years – they’re the ones with the pristine dust jackets or ones that were donated decades ago by some well-meaning patron, never to be touched or read again. They are the ones that are, in some cases, four or five times as old as our library patrons.

Weeding is a touchy subject for many librarians. Which books do we choose to discard? What do we do with them? How do we dispose of them in a way that won’t arouse indignation from the school’s administration and general public? I’ve heard some librarians talk about getting rid of discarded books in such secretive ways that you’d think they were criminals trying to find a good spot to dump a body.

So what do we do? You don’t just want to throw them away, right? When I was working at the middle school level, I used to divvy up any discarded AR books and give them to teachers for their classroom collections. That seemed to work really well. Now that I’m at a high school, however, I wanted to give both teachers and students alike a chance to enhance their collections.

The truth is that many of the library’s discarded books are still valuable and have a lot to offer a reader or even a collector. At my previous school, I tried doing book displays for some of these good but overlooked books. I had some success with that, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to justify keeping many of those volumes on the shelves. I know that some schools sell discarded books as a fundraising activity. I haven’t tried that personally, but from my experience, I think I’d make so little money at my school on discards as to render the fundraiser pointless.

Here’s how we discard of our discards. After they’ve been taken out of the system, we put them on a cart, put some attractive signs on said cart (e.g., FREE BOOKS!!), and simply give them away. That’s it. While it would be an exaggeration to say that our discards continuously fly off the cart, we do have some faculty and students who come by daily to check for new additions. In a very real way, it gives new life to these old books. They are finally being considered again, and as many are taken to new homes, I feel as if they’re at last getting the attention they deserved years ago.

In addition, a good number of these books have gone to one of our art teachers to be used in mixed media projects with his classes. I must say that, initially, a small part of me was apprehensive at the thought of defacing these old books (because they are supposed to be read, that’s why!). However, seeing them repurposed into works of art made me realize that there is more than one meaningful way to make use of discarded works, and I look forward to seeing more of his students’ projects in the future.

“A RICH AND DEVIOUS ACHIEVEMENT” for them if I do say so myself.

What do you do with weeded books at your school? I would love to hear new ideas and suggestions!

Annie Kiene

Media Specialist

Richmond Hill High School

Richmond Hill, GA


Posted on March 31, 2011, in Best practice, Ideas. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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