Weeding Through a School Library

The idea of looking at your school library and knowing you need to weed through it, is enough to make you want to stop before you even start! The process can seem so daunting and overwhelming, however it needs to be done. In the world we live in today, it’s more important than ever to do the work to make sure you school library remains diverse and representative of everyone. Trust me, if you think you’re students aren’t noticing the representation in your books….you’re wrong. They notice.

Where to begin

A few years ago, our incredible LRC assistant, Jen, and I started the huge process of going through our school library and getting rid of some of our books. We noticed that our students were feeling overwhelmed having to look through so many books on the shelves and they would repeatedly check out the same type of books. In our class set section, where teachers can check out multiple copies for book clubs and small groups, we noticed that we had way too many copies of certain books. In some cases, we counted 50 copies of the same book! They weren’t being used and were just taking up precious shelf space. So we came up with a plan.

The first thing to do was reach out to the teachers and ask them which class sets they wanted to keep large amounts of and how many they needed. All the other titles of books that weren’t mentioned, we decided to keep 15 of each.This allowed us to get rid of multiple books and gain much needed shelf space back. Back on the regular shelves for the students, if we had multiple copies, we decided on only keeping two.

How to decide which books to weed

Now I know there are research-based and official protocols to use when deciding which books to weed and as much as I would like to say that we had an official checklist that we went through with every book that we got rid of, we didn’t. If you were hoping to learn more about using one of the those official protocols, then check out this article from the Library Journal. If you happen to be more like me and Jen and just want to get this done easily, then you’re in the right place!

Here are a couple questions we asked ourselves as we walked around the LRC looking at books:

  • Does the cover look old?
  • Are the pages or binding ripped?
  • Has it been checked out recently?

That’s it. Depending on the answer to those questions, we decided whether to keep the book or not. All the books that we decided to take out were placed on a cart so Jen could then take them out of our cataloging system.

What to do with all the withdrawn books

Many of the books we withdrew from our system, we boxed up and donated to Scarce. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s an amazing organization that accepts donations of books and other school supplies and allows teachers to “shop” there for anything they may need. I believe they only charge $5 per box and you can fill it up with anything in the store.

We also had many other great books that we only got rid of because we had so many copies. We took all those books and set up a little shopping area in the school hallway for students to shop. I provided plastic bags and placed a sign that told the students they could pick as many books as they wanted to bring home and keep forever. When news spread that there were free books in the hallway, we couldn’t keep them stocked! This allowed kids that don’t have access to many books at home, to finally claim some as their own.

Now what?

Ok, so you’ve weeded through and have gotten rid of many of your old books, now what do you do? Restock those shelves with new, relevant books!! Check award lists (Caudill, Bluestem, Coretta Scott King, etc). Books have made those award lists for a reason; they usually are incredible. Check to make sure you have a wide variety of representation of different cultures and races, LGBTQ books, current social issue books. Yes, weeding through and refreshing your library takes time, but it’s also something that needs to continue to be done to create strong, and excited, readers!

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