Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Facilitating the Serendipitous Discovery of Information: Planning and Weeding the Fine Art Collection

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Facilitating the Serendipitous Discovery of Information: Planning and Weeding the Fine Art Collection

Article excerpt


Hunter Library, completed in 1953, is the main library at Western Carolina University (WCU), a state university located in the heart of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. As a public comprehensive university, WCU is part of a statewide system of universities and college campuses. As of fall 2013, WCU has a total enrollment of 10,106 students. The library contains approximately 800,000 print and electronic volumes and provides access to more than 45,000 journals through print subscriptions and electronic databases. Since the focus at WCU is teaching, the priority in building the collection is given to the undergraduate curricula, followed by the graduate curricula.

Collection development at WCU is done by both the subject liaisons and the Collection Development Librarian (CDL). At Hunter Library, the liaison model has been implemented for over ten years. With this model, a librarian is assigned to specific disciplines and is responsible for instruction, outreach, and collection development for programs in those disciplines. Each liaison is knowledgeable about resources, formats, curricular requirements, and trends in the assigned disciplines. This knowledge assists the liaison in selecting, and deselecting, material to create a collection that both contains high-quality material and supports the institutional programs. While the role of the liaisons focuses on developing a collection for specific subjects, the primary function of the CDL is to oversee the whole collection, and to provide leadership and guidance in coordinating the direction and balance of the library collections. Liaisons and the CDL collaborate to ascertain that funds and resources meet the information and research needs of students and faculty.

In 2011 Hunter Library began to plan for a phased renovation. The architectural firm selected for the renovation suggested the installation of compact shelving on the ground floor, the former site of WCU's football field and where the bulk of the print collection is located. The space gained will be converted into study space for students. Though the library is in the enviable position of not hurting for space, it made sense to the librarians to weed the collection before moving thousands of books. After analysis of the various collections, usage, and projected needs, the library determined that it would be necessary to reduce the print collection by approximately seventeen percent. Since a comprehensive weeding process had not been done in over ten years, the faculty and staff faced the daunting task of not only deselecting items, but also finding a location for the discarded books and changing the information in the catalog. Because each discipline uses books in a different way, it was decided that the liaisons would collaborate with the CDL and begin systematic weeding of their subject areas. One of the subject areas that was the most complex was the collection of art material.

This article reports the efforts of the Visual and Performing Arts Liaison (VPAL), now at another institution, and the CDL in weeding the art collection. The project was conducted and concluded in 2013. The first section will highlight best weeding practices in general. The second section will focus on general practices used in Hunter Library's weeding project. The third section will explain the process of weeding the art collection. It is the hope of the authors that the article provides an overview of the weeding process, reports on issues related specifically to an art collection of print material, and gives practical tips on how to go about it.

Selecting best weeding practices for your collection

Despite novelist Nicholson Baker's diatribe against weeding at the San Francisco Public Library (Baker, 1996), most trained librarians understand the necessity of culling collections. However, the deselection process must be planned carefully and strategically to avoid "...a weeding project gone horribly wrong" (Stephens, 2013) as seen in the unfortunate case of the Urbana (IL) Free Library, in which the executive director's only criterion to remove books was to select those that were more than ten years old. …

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