June 30 marked the official end of the Wesleyan University Library weeding project. After 3 ½ years of planning, discussion, selection, deselection and shifting, the library has met its target of creating 60,000-volumes worth of shelf space for growth and the move of the Art Library collection into Olin.
What did we do?
- 46,000 books were withdrawn, out of the 90,000 books that met the initial criteria for withdrawal candidates. Many faculty members participated in the careful review of the candidates in their subject areas, selecting books to be retained. All of the librarians reviewed some or all of the candidates as well, for retention as well as possible transfer to Special Collections & Archives.
- 4,000 bound journal volumes were withdrawn. These were selected for withdrawal because they are available electronically in JSTOR and contain few or no illustrations or graphics that might be missing or of poor quality in the electronic version.
- 18,000 volumes-worth of shelf space was created by adding high shelves to the government documents section on the ground floor of Olin, and shelving little-used materials in that collection on the high shelves. These materials are being essentially ‘stored in place,’ and can be retrieved by request just as any other books in storage are retrievable.
- 8,500 volumes in the ‘A’ classification were moved to a small storage area in the PAC. These volumes are also retrievable by request.
In all, over 76,000 volumes-worth of shelf space was created, which is allowing us not only to bring the Art Library collection into Olin and to add new books for several years, but to ease the overcrowding on shelves which can lead to damage when books are pulled out or mold problems due to lack of airflow.
Who was involved?
Every member of the library staff was involved in the project in one way or another, and each person brought their expertise to bear on the work they did, as well as their commitment to be a responsible steward of Wesleyan’s collections. I was going to mention each person individually, but it really would end up being a list of library staff! Our custodians cleaned shelves and stack areas (pulling, shifting and adjusting shelves kicks up a lot of dust and dirt!). Librarians worked with faculty to identify withdrawal candidates to be retained, to selectively withdraw duplicate copies of books, review books for possible transfer to Special Collections and Archives, repair damaged books to be retained, and to collaborate in overall project planning and management. Library staff pulled withdrawn volumes, updated catalog records, reclassified and relabeled books, oversaw the shift and moving of collections in all three libraries, and managed the book sales and disposition of remaining books.
We hired two people specifically for the project. Melissa Behney was hired to work in Olin Reference, freeing up the time of other librarians to work on the weeding project. When the Science Librarian position became available in early 2013, Melissa was selected for the position and is now a permanent member of the staff. Morain Miller was hired in the summer of 2012 to process withdrawn books and to work with Stacks Manager Randy Wilson on the resulting shifts and moves in Olin, SciLi and the Art Library. We are grateful to Morain and Melissa for their hard work, dedication and collegiality!
What is happening this summer?
Immediately after Commencement a crew from W. B. Meyer came in to do a shift of all eight Olin stack floors, to distribute the free shelf space throughout the stacks and to make room for the Art Library collection. Olin and Art had a small number of books in LC classes Q – V; these books were moved to the Science Library. The initial Olin stack shift was completed in early July and Stacks Manager Randy Wilson and his students will be making final adjustments in the next few months.
Also in early July the Art Library collections were moved into Olin and inter-shelved with the existing Art collections here. Most of the reunited collections—aside from some oversize volumes on floor 3A—are on the second floor of Olin, and study spaces are being created on that floor with the needs of Art students in mind. By the end of the summer, we anticipate that the new study and office spaces will be complete and ready for the new year!
This project has not been easy or without controversy. The 2014 MISO survey elicited many comments from faculty who remain skeptical of the project, how it was conducted, and its possible deleterious effects on their research and the work of their students. One concern expressed again and again throughout the project was, “Yes, the books being considered for withdrawal are held by at least 30 other libraries in the United States—for now. But what if some or all of those libraries decide to withdraw their copies?” A few years ago the CTW Consortium took the first step in addressing this concern by establishing a Memorandum of Agreement that the last copy of a book in the Consortium would not be withdrawn without consultation with the other two libraries.
This year Wesleyan University Library is in the first cohort of libraries participating in the establishment of EAST, the Eastern Academic Scholars’ Trust. EAST will be a shared depository of scholarly monographs in print—each participating library will commit to retaining certain scholarly books in their collections, and making these available to other members of the trust through interlibrary loan or other means. Similar depositories are being set up elsewhere, all with the objective of preserving access to print monographs used in research, scholarship and academia.
Later this year the library will institute a low-level, ongoing weeding process, to maintain a certain amount of growth space and eventually (and only when electronic books have improved enough to be easy to use for scholarly purposes) to create additional innovative study and work spaces for Wesleyan students and faculty. Before the process is instituted, we will thoroughly review the plan with the Library Faculty Advisory Committee and Academic Affairs. And we will be eliciting your feedback via emails to the faculty forum, meetings and this blog.
Thanks to all of you who participated in this project by reviewing lists, making suggestions and expressing your concerns.