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.)


Ms. Moon said...

I feel sorry for authors whose books are on sale for a buck in the remainder bins.
I know what you're talking about.

ellen abbott said...

Maybe you could set up a table with some kind of catchy slogan to attract attention to some of those books.

Lorianne said...

Echoing what Ms. Moon said. Whenever I see bookstore remainders, I feel sad and wonder "Why bother writing a book when it's all impermanent, anyway."

It's weirdly comforting to think my BLOG might have a longer (virtual) shelf-life than a print book would.

The Bug said...

It's not exactly the same, but this is why I go, "thank you, no" when family members urge me to publish my poetry. They really have no idea of what a futile gesture that would be!

My Corner of the world said...

When I go to the local library, I gravitate to the shelf of "Librarian recommended" books. They change every week and are displayed slightly opened with the covers facing front along with a note as to which librarian read and recommended the book. Nice touch I thought.
I found many good reads that way!

Linda Sue said...

The beautiful old oak card catalogue in our library was removed , replaced with computers. I have only been to the library twice since that happened. Loved to browse the card catalogue and would get side tracked frequently finding books that sounded more interesting. The cards were tactile, aged, some with pencil marks "good book!" scribbled by some one...Curious to know title of the book about the boy in Wyoming, might like to read that one!

Reya Mellicker said...

You are such a good hearted person, Steve. You truly are.