Few library issues are as potentially difficult for managers and leaders as those that involve weeding the physical collection. In recent years, weeding projects have become increasingly controversial, even resulting in staff mutinies, mass resignations and firings, and the removal of library directors and trustees. Although a library’s staff and director might take care to follow established guidelines, they can be accused of censorship, book burning, and destroying public property.
How can you safeguard your next weeding initiative and keep it from making local headlines, except in a good way? How do you balance the professional stewardship of the collection with the nostalgic needs of the library’s users? (They want to see certain books on the shelves, even if they are never checked out?) How can you help staff create a process that listens to concerns from the beginning and accommodates conflicting viewpoints?
Key issues include the necessity of clear communication with stakeholders before the initiative starts, the importance of asking for input in the strategic planning process (which should drive collection management, including weeding), roles of leaders and managers, and assuming that everything can go wrong, and how to prepare for mistakes and misunderstandings.
• Create external support team for community relations.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate.
• Promote collection development and weeding education for everyone, including staff, board, community, and local (and social) media.
• Provide formal feedback on strategic goals from community and staff.