Thursday, September 26, 2013
Weeding the Fiction Section
Although libraries in general may seem huge, with plenty of room for books, the truth is they're not, and gaining shelf space is a competitive process. We've been weeding out the fiction section at work, and discarding unread or underappreciated books to make room for new ones.
I find discarding books depressing. Just yesterday I picked up a discarded novel that had never been checked out -- not once. How sad is that?! It must have spent time on our new books display and then migrated to the main shelves, and in a span of several years it caught no one's attention.
Think of all the work the authors put into those books, and the hope attendant on purchasing them for the library. I'm just an underling so I don't make decisions about what stays and what goes -- but I personally intervened to save three, including one about a boy in Wyoming with a pet raven that had been checked out one time, in 2008. (It's on a reading list of recommended books, so I argued it merited saving.)
I suspect some of these books go unread because they get buried in the collection. They're in the card catalog, but unless a reader is searching for fiction about Wyoming or ravens (for example) what would cause them to find that particular book? I don't see many people casually browsing the shelves. It seems like most come in with some idea of what they want -- for kids, that often means a book in one of those immensely popular series, like the Cherub books or Percy Jackson or Lemony Snicket.
So I'm thinking about ways to call more attention to some of the books we have, and to diversify some of the students' reading.
On a positive note, I've noticed that the librarians are very good about saving classics -- works by Honoré de Balzac or Saul Bellow or Turgenev -- regardless of how many times they're read. I guess some books are pretty much collection requirements.
The whole process makes me glad I'm not an author!
(Photo: Chepstow Road, Westbourne Park.)