I recently read Weeding the Worst Library Books in the April 26th edition of the New Yorker. Daniel Gross makes a particularly salient point when he writes that libraries “symbolize our collective access to information”. It is the collective ideal that is important. As a librarian myself, I could take offense at non-librarians telling me how to do my job, since my MLIS and ten years experience have given me a thorough understanding of why and how to weed a collection. But as a public servant I cannot, and should not, operate independently. As a director of a library, my position is also one of advocating for (and creating) favorable public opinion of public libraries. The Berkeley Public Library weeding process was a public relations disaster, not just for the director, Jeff Scott, but for all public libraries. I also read Weeding Without Worry by Rebecca Vnuk in the May 2016 edition of American Libraries. I too, have had my share of weeding problems, mostly with small rural libraries that have, in some cases, never been weeded! (Can you picture me hiding circa 1950 encyclopedias and taking them to the recycle center in small increments so as not to call attention. My mistake was the same mistake that many librarians make by not engaging the public in what we know is a touchy subject.)
The focus of Rebecca’s article is communicating with patrons and maintaining transparency in all our actions. As custodians of public property it is incumbent on us to educate the public by explaining why and how we select and de-select library materials. We need to invite our stakeholders to ask questions, voice concerns and weigh in on our Collection Development Policies in order to help determine what should or should not be kept in the collection. Thank you, Rebecca for so eloquently stating the case for weeding and the importance of educating the public. It is,after all, their public library.