A Platonic dilemma …

This past winter the library hired Melissa Behney, a reference librarian with extensive experience in academic libraries, to assist with the weeding project.   Melissa has helped us in a variety of ways, but she has truly done yeoman’s service in her review of Round 1 books marked ‘Keep an edition.’

To explain, on the withdrawal candidate lists faculty can mark a book in two ways: ‘Keep this copy,’ or ‘Keep an edition.’  Any book with a mark to ‘Keep this copy’ has been retained and a code placed in the catalog record for future reference.  A mark to ‘Keep an edition’ indicates that at least one edition of a work should be kept, but not necessarily the edition on the list.

We have not pulled books marked ‘Keep an edition,’ but asked Melissa to review them to determine which of them the library holds in multiple copies/printings/editions, and, of these, which might be withdrawn while keeping one or more editions of the work.

It sounds, well, fairly simple—until you come to an author like Plato.  Specifically The Dialogues of Plato, translated by B. Jowett.  Melissa found that the library holds 7 different versions of this work, including three different versions of the third edition.  Each version was published in several volumes; the library holds all the volumes of some editions and only some volumes of others.

What to keep and what to withdraw?  There is a lot to consider:

–          The 4th edition was published in 4 volumes in 1964, and all the volumes have circulated 6 or more times in the past 15 years.  None were on the withdrawal candidate list, and all will be retained.

–          The two-volume 1937 reprint of the 3rd edition, is held by 1,417 other libraries—more by far than other editions of this work.  Our two copies of v.1—the only volume we hold—have circulated a total of 15 times in the past 15 years.  The copies have also been on reserve.  We will retain these copies, and consider acquiring v. 2 as well.

–          The 1924 printing of the 3rd edition, in 5 volumes, is held by 70 libraries.  We have v. 1, 3, 4 and 5, of which v.5 has circulated once and v.4 has circulated 42 times in the past 15 years.

–          The 1892 printing of the 3rd edition, also in 5 volumes, is held by 115 libraries.  We have v. 3, 4, and 5, none of which have circulated in the last 15 years.

–          The 5-volume 2nd edition, published by Clarendon Press in 1875, is held by 134 libraries. Our copy is in compact storage in the basement of the Science Library, and has not circulated in the last 15 years.

–          The one-volume World’s Great Classics, published by The Colonial Press in 1899, is held by 147 libraries and has circulated 5 times in the last 15 years.

–          A 4-volume set published by Bigelow Brown with no publication date or edition, is held by 100 libraries.  We have v. 1, 3 and 4.  Volume 1 has not circulated; v.3 has circulated 8 times, and v. 4 has circulated 6 times in the past 15 years.

Melissa and Kendall Hobbs, liaison to the Philosophy Dept., have gone into the stacks to review all these sets, and have made decisions about what to retain and withdraw.

Wait until we get to Shakespeare …

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