The importance of Weeding

So as I delve into this job at Ignace School I have discovered that the elementary library had not been weeded in quite some time. I figured…5 years. I was so wrong I could have been right. It appears the system has not been weeded since they switched over to an electronic catalog in 2000, the earliest record of entry into the system.

So 15 years since a weed….I have my work cut out for me. I am wrong again. That is just when they switched systems. Many books are 25-35 years old, some as old as 1968. I came across one book that threw me for a loop. The book is called The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop. This book was published in 1938 and describes a Chinese tale about five Chinese brothers……who all looked exactly the same. One brother is accused of murder and sentenced to death.This is irksome as it is inappropriate for children with its themes of violence and racism. The pictures depict the five brothers who are drawn as stereotypical Chinese people, this is to be expected in the 1930’s and can be likened to Black face of the 19th and early 20th century.  This book is also frequently present on many lists of banned books and has been removed from many classrooms.

Titles like these need to be weeded for both the protection of the patron (in my case young children) and the protection of the library. If Items like this were allowed to get into the hands of the public, not only is it sending a racist message, but could lead to a public outcry from the public and possibly legal action against the library. I understand that we are to be beacons of free speech and offering a variety of ideas, but something that is 50, 60, or 77 years old is certainly worth a look at for potential weeding.

So weeding is a necessity of our job, we may not want to get rid of knowledge, because it could still serve a purpose, but you must consider the consequences of keeping certain text, and figure out if it is within the mission of the library you are at, or is it just a text that needs to be thrown to the trash.

5 thoughts on “The importance of Weeding

  1. Dawn Monroe

    When I worked at a small Northern Ontario public Library I looked at weeding. I was amazed at the number of old medical books that remained on the shelf. They were 20-30 years out of date and dangerous for people to apply old medical information. They were all gone in a flash!!!

  2. lothanas

    I started a District Cataloguing job where it was in the process of being switched to a district level automation system when I took the job. Before that each school was pretty much left to their own devices, with a hard to use single site automation. As a result the records were bad in many, many cases. So I thought to myself a good place to start would be to weed and not have to worry about those records. That is when I learned that there had never been a weeding in many of the libraries, EVER. 5 years later, it is perfect but on it’s way. I think it will take another 2 or three years to get the system as squeaky clean as I can.

  3. Jennifer

    Still weeding a public library collection after 2 years on the job. The previous librarians seemed never met to meet a book that couldn’t be saved. You know nobody has weeded when you can find written insults in a kids books aimed at someone you know today as a grandfather!

  4. Colleen

    I took a position as a public library director for a system that has never been weeded or updated last year. Since then I have been vigorously weeding. I have found 1950’s books with titles such as “The Complete 20th Century Music Collection”. How can something that was written only half way through the century be complete? There are so many gems like that. Hoarding is not collection development.


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