Thanks for asking—

All of us here at The Urbana Free Library appreciate the concern and interest our Urbana patrons have shown for our library and our staff the last few months.

We think it’s important to keep you informed and answer any questions you might have about the work and activities we’re doing here at the library. Please always feel free to ask us.

Friday (October 4) we started weeding selected materials from our adult collection, welcoming the assistance of seven collection development students from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library & Information Science. We want to let you all know what we were doing and why.

The students started one project I’d been preparing since this spring—weeding the large print collection. As the librarian who purchases books for this collection, I add 200-300 volumes annually. The library hadn’t weeded from large print section for about four years and it was outgrowing its shelves. We wanted to consider books that hadn’t circulated in more than three years (a criterion we’ve been using for fiction), plus titles with low circulation and titles that were dated. We looked at factors such as the date we added the book, total circulations, and last checkout dates, plus whether or not we had the title in regular print format. Then we prepared a list of books to inspect. Working from the list, the students pulled books the Adult Services librarians wanted to examine. These are in the Adult Services office where we can look at them more carefully. The library will keep some, but will weed about approximately 800-900 large print titles, around the same amount I’ve added the last four years to that collection.

The other project of the day was to identify duplicate copies no longer needed in the romance and mystery collections. When popular books are new, libraries buy multiple copies to fill the demand. After a while, we don’t need as many and cut back on the copies held. We need to do this on a regular basis, so the students looked for duplicates fitting criteria we gave them. These extras are also in the Adult Services office, so librarians can verify we no longer need to keep so many.

A word about weeding—deaccessioning or removing materials from a library collection. This is part of any library’s lifecycle of materials. Librarians decide what to buy, how many copies to buy, and when to no longer carry specific items. We use our best professional judgment in all of these activities. Public libraries can’t keep everything. Space is finite, especially with new materials published all the time. Books are weeded using criteria such as condition, low circulation, superseded with newer editions, or simply being out of date. Our particular library adds over 12,000 books to the adult collection every fiscal year. Weeding the collection is a necessary piece of our routine and we use our best professional judgment to craft a collection that our Urbana citizens can be proud of.

A word about the UIUC Graduate School of Library & Information Science. We’re pleased to partner with this school, as it has provided many excellent student volunteers and interns. In return, we’ve been able to give students first-hand library experience. Members of collection development classes have helped us with weeding projects several times the past few years, in an efficient yet controlled way. The students helped us cost-effectively accomplish tasks that could take far longer than if we processed one cart at a time. Since Friday’s activity was a teaching opportunity besides a practical experience, I sat down with the students when they arrived, explained what we were doing for the day and why, reinforced this with instructions sheets, and monitored their activities. I also stressed that the Adult Services staff would make final decisions.

Again, please get in touch with me or with any member of The Urbana Free Library administrative team if you have questions. It’s important to us.

Mary Wilkes Towner

Interim Director of Adult Services