Letter to the Editor: Milne Library Weeding Task Force

Michelle Hendley, Librarian and Chair, Milne Library Weeding Task Force

I am writing to address the issue raised about the circulation of the book collection in the article “Changes to James M. Milne Library” and to share information about the work of the Milne Library Weeding Task Force.

In 2014, Sustainable Collection Services (SCS) conducted an analysis of the library’s circulating print books that are housed on the second and third floors of the building. There are 330,871 items included in the analysis. The analysis does not include theses and dissertations, print journals, eBooks, microfilm, reference books, special collections, juvenile collections, and U.S. government and New York state documents that are not categorized in the Library of Congress classification system.

Milne Library supplied its circulation statistics to SCS for the analysis; however, the library has circulation data for a limited time period. For example, the library has historical circulation data for the print collection as far back as 1994. In addition, statistics for the “last charge date” (the actual date that a library book was loaned) are only available since 2005. Furthermore, data for in-house use (items that were not checked out but circulated within the building) are available since 2008.

According to the SCS analysis, 49 percent of the circulating books on the second and third floor of the library have “no recorded use.” However, it is important to recognize that SCS’s report only captures statistics on books that were loaned over the last twenty-two years. Therefore, if a book were borrowed five times in 1990 and three times in 1993, this circulation data would not be contained in the analysis. Additionally, SCS’s report only encompasses eight years worth of data on books that circulated in-house. Consequently, the data on books that circulated within the building prior to 2008 is excluded from SCS’s report.

Of note, according to the SCS analysis, 58 percent of the books have a last charge date after 1994. It is also worth mentioning that of the 162,829 books that have “no recorded use,” 15 percent of them have a last charge date. The circulation analysis that SCS has provided is useful to the library staff; however, it is essential to recognize that the analysis is based on incomplete statistics.

The Milne Library staff are using the SCS report as one of many collection development tools to identify books for withdrawal from the collection. The removal of books from the collection, also referred to as “weeding,” is a normal part of collection development in libraries and the Milne Library staff has participated in numerous weeding projects over the past several years. In anticipation of the partial renovation project, the Milne Library Weeding Task Force was established because the project will result in the loss of shelving space. In 2015, the Task Force developed a weeding process that it believes will result in the professional and responsible removal of items from the library’s collection. The Task Force worked diligently to create a transparent, sustainable, and inclusive process and appealed to the faculty for assistance in this project.

At the February 16, 2015 meeting of the College Library Committee, the Chair of the Task Force encouraged faculty to share discipline specific criteria for weeding books, to recommend books to discard from the collection, and to review the list of recommended items. In the spring and summer of 2015, library staff and faculty in the Biology, History, English, and Anthropology departments collaborated to recommend to the campus community 6,600 book titles for removal from the library. The Task Force is currently working with faculty in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Theatre to recommend books in these disciplines for deselection. Moreover, the Task Force has identified other subject areas in the collection including medicine, technology, and agriculture to conduct weeding.

In conclusion, it is the goal of the Task Force to use all the collection development tools at its disposal and to recommend books for deselection from the collection in a professional manner in consultation with the faculty and other interested campus constituents.

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