Thursday, September 17, 2009

Awful Library Books - a blog that encourages weeding

I found out about this particular blog a while ago (but still after Yvonne) - Awful Library Books is hilarious and embarrassing at the same time.

It's hilarious because the books that they blog about are so bad (or so strange). It's embarrassing, and should be for any librarian, because these books are all signs that some library's collection is in desperate need of weeding.

The blog focuses mainly on public libraries, but academic library collections need weeding too. Yes, academic libraries should sometimes keep certain older books, perhaps for their historical value or because they are important in their field. It's not possible or advisable to keep everything, however. If the university has no courses that cover the historical aspects of certain topics (such as plant biotechnology, for instance), why keep books whose only current value is historical? There are lots of subjects that tend not to age well if you're not interested in their historical aspects - anything with technology, medicine, science, etc.

I'm not sure this gets mentioned a lot when the benefits of weeding are discussed, but, as a cataloger, I like the idea of large weeding projects, because that usually means lots of old, maintenance-needing records will be removed. I like catalog maintenance, but I like it even more when I know that the records I'm maintaining represent materials people would actually want to use.


  1. Just what I need, another blog to follow, but Awful Library Books is too good to pass up!

    And I agree with you about weeding. I think I may be the only librarian here who DOES weed, and I think I could do a lot more. I think every book that goes to mending should be sent to the relevant liaison librarian for evaluating - do we need to keep it or not! Might give them a little more time to process new books instead of repairing old ones.

  2. I'll chime in here about the weeding...I was brutal when they let me at the computer stuff. I wish we could talk some people into it...(maybe an underground movement...secret weeding LOL). In the past when people pulled stuff to weed, the cataloging folks refused to pull them and just put them back to be waste of time...

  3. I don't know how much better it would be now. I'm on board with weeding, but I'm not actually involved with any of the process of removing the books from our collection - I know there's a report Glenda runs and some stuff Sharon does (plus our screwy 001's can lead to some confusion with removing OCLC holdings), but I don't do anything myself.

  4. I think we need to explore having some of our stuff come in shelf-ready. Maybe departmental orders, since that stuff is probably what departments are going to want to get their hands on most quickly (as opposed to approvals). No reflection on you, Melissa, because I don't think you are the bottleneck, but six months (or more!) from time of purchase to time it gets out on the shelves is RIDICULOUS.

    If we got some shelf-ready stuff, you'd have more time for your other projects (database catalog and cleaning up messed-up records come to mind), and processing would have more time to deal with the weeded books.

    So far I haven't had the problems Tracy mentioned with stuff I've weeded - I can't believe that really happened (well, yes I can...).

  5. By shelf-ready you mean, not just already processed but also already cataloged, right? Initially, that would take a lot of work, too, and we'd have to resign ourselves to lower-quality records (which is what we're already doing with the e-resources records - quite a few of those have been awful, but there's not much that can be done when you've got a batch of 400+). It's a trade-off.

  6. Yes, I guess it's a trade-off. Are the shelf-ready catalog records always THAT bad? Seems like something like that could be specified in a contract. I'm only thinking of it for the kinds of stuff that goes up to Stacks, not any of the other collections.

  7. I think it depends upon who you get the records from - some are worse than others. I think someone on AUTOCAT was saying that, if it's a good company, you should be able to work with them to get records pretty much the way you want. I imagine it's a little less horrific for books than it is for other formats. I try not to think too hard about some of the stuff in our Netlibrary and Classical Music Library records. The things that bother me most are outdated or improperly constructed subject headings (I have no way of finding a lot of this stuff later on, other than stumbling upon it, because Symphony's headings checker isn't smart enough for that), things that don't follow MARC standards at all (someone recently complained on one of my listservs about records they purchased that included dashes in the ISSNs in the records, which made those ISSNs unsearchable), and completely incorrect information (many, many of our Classical Music Library records are just records for the CDs with e-resource bandaids slapped on).

    If this were ever something we were going to seriously consider, I could look up the posts people have written on AUTOCAT about shelf-ready records and see what advice people have given.