Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
MPL Courtyard

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Collection Deselection: Weeding, or a Great Name for a Rock-and-Roll Band?

Deselection is the opposite of acquisition in library collection development. To make room for new books, one must discard old, outdated, dilapidated, worn-out, and damaged materials. Since time immemorial, this process has been called weeding by librarians, but somehow deselection sounds less drastic. It is a term generated from the politically-correct culture, which engenders a belief that expressions must be softened so as not to offend someone. I can certainly understand the desire not to offend, but I must concur with Professor William Strunk when he advised his English students (including famous author E. B. White) at Cornell University nearly a century ago to carefully choose, and use, the right word to best express one's meaning.

Consequently, I prefer the term weeding to describe the process of thinning library collections. After three and one-half years at our library, during which time I had weeded approximately a half dozen books, I have decided to apply my collection development learning (from last semester's library course on this subject) to best advantage. Thus far, a bunch of books have been weeded. (But see * paragraph below.) They will be available later this year in book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Library (FOL). Meanwhile, they must be removed from the library's ILS (integrated library system)--what once was the card catalog--and then transferred to FOL for sales preparations.

Why was weeding necessary for the MPL Indiana Room Collection? We had absolutely no more shelf space, plain and simple. No room was available to shelve newly-secured items, and so tough choices must be made. What stays and what goes is always a difficult process, but fortunately we have detailed criteria from which to make rational deselection decisions.

If you stop by the Indiana Room, you will see the progress we're making, and there will now be plenty of expansion room for acquisitions. That's good news, because you can never have too many books.


William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator, Adult Services


* Paragraph: Should it say "a bunch of books have ..." or "a bunch of books has ..."? Since bunch is singular, traditional English usage calls for a singular verb, e.g., has. (The preposition of books is ignored when considering subject/verb number agreement.) However, modern English usage favors the interpretation of bunch as a collective noun, thereby requiring a plural verb, e.g., have. This is nicely analyzed in the University of Pennsylvania's Language Log (Jan. 13, 2007). This illustrates that grammarians truly have way too much free time on their hands.

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