How to 'weed' a Library

26th September 2022
How to 'weed' a Library

Have you ever wondered what librarians get up to when they aren't shelving books or helping you find what you need? Join our Arts & Culture Lead Sarah Fletcher as she shares her horticultural musings to help shed light on what 'weeding' means, and how we're always keeping an eye on the Library's growing collection.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need ~ Cicero

No, I didn’t get this from a fridge magnet.

This quotation triggered a thought I’ve often had in the 34 years I’ve been a non-fiction librarian: that managing a library collection is rather like looking after a garden. Bit of a leap of imagination? Bear with me…

We carefully choose high-quality stock (books, DVDs and so on) based on people’s past likes and sometimes throw in new varieties. If something’s not popular we’ll put it in a different section or promote it to give it every chance. An item will thrive if the climate of the world around is favourable.

And what happens when items don’t “take”, or rather library users don’t take them? Well, let me stretch the gardening analogy to breaking point by suggesting that’s where “weeding” comes in.

What is ‘weeding’?

Weeding is a controversial library topic – only to be whispered in the stacks. Sadly, books (and other items) must be passed on. It’s a natural part of a library book’s life cycle. Each one has to earn its place on the shelf and if it’s just not moving, then it has to move on. Withdrawn books are sold to library users via our shelf in the entrance hall, given to charities in developing countries or recycled.

How else can the library free up space for that best seller you’d like us to get? Without regular weeding the books (unlike our glamorous staff) would be old, scruffy and out-of-date. An out-of-date book can actually be dangerous when it comes to subjects such as law and health.

Convinced yet? 

Put another way, the Library is a growing organism.

It’s the fifth law of library science (of course you knew that) formulated by Ranganathan (the librarian – not the TV comic). A library’s bookshelves may appear static and lifeless. But I bet if you filmed them on timelapse you’d see a wave effect – like wind rippling through grass – as the rows of books shorten and lengthen.

The Guille-Allès Library started life at a dynamic point in history. For 140 years it has continued “to grow and sustain readers” through constant evolution – even in challenging times like these – into a rich and vibrant garden - open to all.

So in the spirit of Guernsey “hedge veg”… Come and pick your own!

(And you can stick that on your fridge.)     


Are you curious about any other aspects of the Library service? Drop us a question and we might just turn it into a blog!