Cleaning House

Cleaning House

     Someone came in today and asked for "Madame Bovary" by Gustav Flaubert. At one time, I am sure the library owned this title, but we no longer do. 

     Gering Library's shelves are full. Every time we purchase a book for the library, we have to remove a book from the shelf. We even have a couple of shelves of books downstairs that we want to keep, but no longer have room for upstairs.

     Every year Diane goes through the shelves to look at each book. She evaluates when it was last read, what kind of shape it's in, and whether the information it contains is current. If it meets the criteria, it stays on the shelf. 

     Every popular fiction book in the collection has been read in the last 3-5 years. We don't have room to keep books that aren't being read. Unread classics stay on the shelves longer, but not forever.

     Sometimes this is an easy choice. For example, "Nostradamus Ate My Hamster?" Recycle. Other times the choice is more difficult; "Madame Bovary" is a classic, but nobody has checked it out in 10 years. Maybe this real estate could be better used for something that is being read.

     We use a huge reference book when weeding to make sure we are keeping as many classics as possible in the fiction section. There is an even bigger book for the nonfiction section. If you are curious, we will be happy to let you look at these books, they are interesting.

     The criteria for keeping nonfiction is a little different. Nonfiction books with inaccurate information can be harmful. Would you use a book published in the 1970s to learn about cancer research? Should you trust a 1990s book with tech stock investment tips? Both contain outdated information, and should not be in the collection.

     A public library needs to have a certain amount of nonfiction books on a wide variety of subjects, and they need to contain current information. "How To Repair Your VCR?" Recycle. Oftentimes we replace weeded nonfiction books with books that contain current information. Even though a book is being weeded, a book with better information will soon replace it.

     Another reason we can't keep all the books- people expect us to buy new books every month. Did you ever wonder how many books are published in English every year? Over a million. Even the Library of Congress can't maintain a copy of every book ever published.

     Most readers know that many of these weeded books will go into our Friends Book Sale in April. We don't keep all of them, but we keep titles that look like they would appeal to buyers. Follow us on social media to learn when the book sale will happen.

     Back to Flaubert. The good news is that other libraries have room for "Madame Bovary" and we can borrow it from them to loan to you. I will discuss how this works in another column.