Getting Awful Library Books organized and listening in on the comments has been one of the most interesting and instructive aspects of running the blog. Whenever we feature youth materials I can always count on some deep feelings to surface about weeding someone's childhood memories. Generally comments usually run something like this:
"That book should never be weeded. He/she is an important author and when I was a teenager/child that book made me think/feel ...."
I usually love when our blog entertains these discussions in the comments. I learn a lot about some authors and maybe the right audience for a title and a lot of other good stuff that might make me think about that title or subject for the future. The danger for librarians is when collection decisions are made for emotional reasons. Over and over I have seen this blind spot develop when librarians are faced with having to weed something they care deeply about. No amount of circ data or staff or community pressure can sway someone that has set this in their mind.
Our recent discussion of the 80s teen fiction was illuminating for me on several levels. Ignoring the author names for a moment, or the quality of writing, I thought the covers looked dated and wouldn't be attractive to the current crop of teens I serve regardless of how great the material inside. What is the point if I can't get a teen to even open the book?
Nearly every librarian I know has a soft spot for something from his or her younger years that they loved. They feel so strongly that this book would be great that they forget in many cases that was 10, 20 or 30 or more years ago. Do some books stand the test of time? You bet. Is this title you are considering one of those titles? I doubt it! Mark Twain, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens don't show up every day. Because you loved this book at age 15 does not necessarily mean that a teen today will embrace the same title. No this is not a hard and fast rule, but I have seen serious junk stay on the shelves of children and teen sections simply because the librarian loved it as a child.
These blind spots can be rough. I remember an intervention (yes, we got to that point) we had to do with one co-worker who would not let go of her Sweet Valley High books (not the new and improved but the 80s paperbacks) because they were her favorites as a teenager. Unfortunately, we needed the space and the circ data was not supporting her emotional need to hang on to these titles. (Watch for a future post on weeding interventions, yes I have done them!)
I know I sound like a broken record on this topic, but no two libraries serve the same patrons, or have the exact same objectives for their collections. Who is the audience? Who are the choices for? Are they in the right location for people to find? Maybe Sweet Valley High still had a place in a library but maybe those book lovers are shopping in the adult section.
PS If you were a SVH fan I hope you are grabbing on the new title for adults called Sweet Valley High Confidential.