I have hit upon a great metaphor for weeding a collection–the parallels are amazing. Are you ready? It’s….like weeding your garden! Okay, that wasn’t exactly my idea, but it did hit me full force today as I was doing battle in my backyard with the weeds that have gotten out of control while we were on vacation.
Of course there are your obvious things that should be weeded–your field bindweed, your deadly nightshade, your book from 1987 on new dinosaur discoveries. Those are no-brainers, and you yank them. But sometimes time gets away from you, and you don’t quite get around to doing the necessary pulling, and then your bindweed is strangling your rosebush, and your science and social studies books are sadly out of date. This is the time of year (between Summer Reading and the beginning of school) to get in there and yank those weeds out!
The more interesting parallel, though, is with the plants that aren’t weeds, exactly. Maybe they are nice plants–marjoram, or sage, or buttercups. So as you are planting your nice new spring plants/books, you go ahead and leave them there, because really, there’s nothing wrong with them. If your shelves are a little overstuffed or your garden looks a little crowded, that’s okay, isn’t it? Well, if I hadn’t already gotten in there and done some serious weeding in my garden this morning, I’d show you a picture of what a bad idea that is. Let’s just say that the sage and the marjoram won and the pretty little carnations? Not so pretty anymore.
My point is if you don’t go ahead and pull the “I know this book never circulates but it has some good information in it and the cover is just a little shabby” books then before you know it, your beautiful new books are lost in a sea of books that clearly your patrons don’t want or they would be checking them out!
Of course you have to make case-by-case distinctions. We have certain authors we love so much that we don’t ever throw their books out even when they don’t circulate in our particular library–Virginia Hamilton comes to mind. I guess that would be the rosebush that isn’t really suited to your garden’s climate or soil but you love it and you keep nurturing it. That’s not so bad. But sometimes in gardening and in weeding, you have to make some hard decisions, and eventually maybe it’s time to pull out that fragile rosebush and put in the new variety so it has room to grow.
But let me just reiterate that we need to all be aware that there is no central repository for children’s literature, and I hope everyone in this age of computer catalogs makes sure they aren’t throwing out the last rosebush of its kind.
I could go on with the gardening metaphors–poetry is like the perennial that only blooms once a year during National Poetry Month but you keep it around because it is SO beautiful when it does bloom…but I will spare you. After all, you need to get in there and do some weeding!