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CREW: A weeding manual for modern libraries (2012) [pdf] (texas.gov)
20 points by tokai on June 29, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 16 comments

Something on HN I'm actually an expert in... go figure.

I want to say that librarians really do use this document as a guide for the de-acquisition process (though not only this guide). It's a good way to create reports (i.e. show me everything beyond a certain copyright date or that hasn't checked out in more than "x" years) so it saves having to judge thousands of items individually, and it provides excellent guidelines for what to look for when you undertake a weeding project (side note: ideally, weeding would be an ongoing project, but...).

But each responsible librarian (generally of a subject matter) really does (or should) look at the titles they are getting ready to weed and decide if it indeed needs to go, needs to get updated, or still has value and needs to be promoted in some way. And they do (or should) regularly examine their area for items that are in poor condition or "MUSTIE" (one thing I always say to selectors is "If in doubt, toss it and replace it. If it's worth keeping, it's worth buying new.").

CREW also provides an excellent explanation to lay people like community members and library boards for why the process is necessary. People have a strange hagiography of the book, but this report makes it very clear why libraries get rid of items and that they endeavor to replace them if necessary. It's very helpful to have a few copies around to hand out.

EDIT: edited for clarity. Just trying to offer some real world experience on how we use CREW.

"strange hagiography of the book" ... amen. Besides neutral guidelines, this document also helps librarians say "this is normal for public libraries--we aren't expected to keep every book that's in every state of disrepair or disuse for ever."

... and that's emphasized by the linked PDF. I think the author's definition of CREW includes what you think it doesn't include.

I didn't say it didn't include that. I have that report more or less memorized, after all. I just felt it was very important to emphasize that there really is a practical application by real people on the other end of the report. Perhaps I didn't make that clear.

You didn't say it was included, either. When I see someone commenting on a document, I like to know if they're emphasizing something that the document already emphasizes, or if they're saying something that wasn't included or wasn't clear.

One non-obvious thing about weeding is that libraries that send books to commercial sellers like Better World Books are helping the Internet Archive build our book collection -- if Better World Books doesn't think they're going to sell a book, and IA doesn't already have a copy, it ends up at our scanning center.

BWB is great. They send boxes when you ask and they come pick them up when you ask. It's basically a no-brainer for libraries.

A related and quite good discussion from a few months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11586061.

I had to double take... why would a modern library need a "wedding" manual? Time for new glasses.

Well, you can ask my girlfriend -- she's a librarian.

It's interesting how librarians have managed to identify large swathes of published material as ephemeral garbage, and nonetheless recognize that it's important to have it in the collection.


> weed books by celebrity chefs and television cooks once their popularity has waned

We're beholden to popular whims as much as any organization, at least if we want to keep the support of a broad base of our communities.

The simple fact is that space is limited. If it ain't gonna check out and it ain't of huge culture importance, it can make way for something that's one of those two things.

Even when physical space isn't limited, such as electronic books at the Internet Archive, there's still the crowded space of search results. If you're looking for a recipe involving a common ingredient, by default, we should probably show more modern / more popular recipes with that ingredient -- and save the historical record of recipes with that ingredient for an advanced search interface.

I don't disagree, but I think the burden here is not on the collection building process, but on the search tools. Generally we do not weed our ebooks unless they are quite obviously problematic (generally out of date or demonstrably incorrect). In practical application, you're probably right, but I would hate for that to become a reason to weed when it should be a reason to make search tools better.

In addition to physical space, the literature is pretty clear that weeding has a long term positive effect on circulation. A physical collection that looks good and seems current is more likely to get used than one that looks beat up and who's best material is buried among rows of books about the OJ Simpson trial. We don't really have data or experience yet on electronic collections, but I'm genuinely curious if the same would be true.

The OJ Simpson story is from actual experience. At a conference I went to a local library that had no fewer than 5 books about OJ Simpson with copyright dates in the mid 1990s. They looked like they hadn't been checked out for some time...

Sure, I agree that the search tool is the best place to fix that problem. But when I'm encouraging external libraries to include IA materials, often they ask me to filter it first, because they can't do anything about how their search tools behave.

Absolutely, I don't mean to be critical of librarians for stocking O.J. books or Dr. Oz's diet. They're important, now, to the patrons, and they won't be tomorrow. And it's clear from the weeding manual that librarians know this and acquire the books anyway -- I admire the professionalism this requires.

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