Cheryl Youse's Student Weeding Lesson                                                                                                                 

© 2005

The Problem:

When faced with the prospect of moving a 50 year old school media center twice in one year because of construction projects, I was challenged to quickly get the collection in order. It was complicated by the fact that I was the first professional librarian to ever work there and the volunteers before me had not only accepted every book ever donated, they had retained all of them. While it was interesting to discover such titles as Do-It-Yourself Taxidermy and a 14th Century Spanish Furniture series, as well as a number of books with "Chicano" in the title, they did not serve the purposes of the school. There were also titles like Milk Bottle Science Projects (copyright 1947) and The Seventeen Guide to Beauty (copyright 1967) that were outdated.

The Process:

Being short of time, I decided to ask my 5th-8th grade students to help and to turn it into a lesson. First, I reviewed the Dewey Decimal System with the students, explained the difference between banning books and weeding a library collection (as we had had a number of discussions on book banning), gave them the worksheet below, and set them loose in the stacks. Each pair of students was required to find two non-fiction books that they felt we should remove from the collection. They had to complete the worksheet and then we reassembled as a class. Each student  stood to present the information outlined in the worksheet about his chosen book. It was a popular lesson with the students and they made excellent choices.

The Result:

I believe I only overruled one book chosen by a student and they only overruled one of my choices. The project gave me better insight to what appealed to them. (We did keep The Seventeen Guide to Beauty and hairstyles at the Christmas dance were decidedly retro that year.) The students enjoyed it so much that all year I had kids dropping in to ask for 'one of those bad book papers' to search for more books that didn't fit. They learned something about currency, authority, and relevance as well as where to look for copyright and other bibliographic information. My collection was streamlined and the two moves of the books in and out of the library that year went . . . as well as could be hoped for. If you have questions, feel free to email me at: cyouse@gmail.com.

The Worksheet:

(Click here for a printable Word document of the worksheet.)

Weeding:
Weeding a library collection means removing the books from the collection that no longer serve a purpose for that specific library. The non-fiction books especially need to be 'weeded' on occasion because they can become quickly outdated. For example, a book that says 'someday man will land on the moon' may be interesting but the information is incorrect and a school library needs to get rid of that book. A book about the Baltimore Colts is no longer current because the Colts are in Indianapolis now. A 20 year old book on basketball rules is out of date because the rules have changed (three point shots weren't allowed back then). If someone donates a book to a school library on antique furniture and there is no class that would use the book and no one has been interested in the subject (the book hasn't ever been checked out), then that book should be removed from the school library collection also.

Weeding is not the same as banning a book. Banning a book means removing a book from a library collection because someone does not approve of the subject matter. Banning a book means someone ELSE makes a decision about what you are allowed to read. Your parents and teachers can and should help make decisions about what you are allowed to read but people who have never even met you should not have the right to decide what books you may read. Banning a book from a library is something librarians do not like to do, but weeding a book from a library is a necessary process. If libraries never removed any books from the collection, there would be no room for new books. Having books with incorrect or outdated information in a library is not useful. Remember though, even though some books are old, they may still be current. Not a lot of new information has been discovered about Julius Caesar in the last 500 years so an old book about Caesar may still be correct but a ten year old book about computers is most likely outdated and no longer useful.

Weeding Worksheet

Title of Book: _______________________________________

Dewey Decimal Classification Number: ____________________

Subject Area: ________________________________________

Copyright Date: ______________________________________

Is the book current? (see copyright, check information) _________

Is the book relevant? (Do we need this book to support things we study at school?)

___________________________________________________

I think we should dispose of this book because:

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Use CAR (Currency, Authority, Relevancy) also when you choose sources for reports--make sure the materials you use are good choices.