KPBSD weeds books from school libraries

While it is freezing outside, many librarians across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are busy weeding.


Pegge Erkeneff, communications specialist for the district, said weeding is selection in reverse — a de-selection of books in a library’s collection, which all district librarians have been instructed to do.

According to the publication “Less is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections” by Donna J. Baumbach, “Weeding is the act of re-evaluating items in the collection and removing any that are inaccurate, out of date, misleading, inappropriate, unused, in poor condition or otherwise harmful to students. It is something that all librarians and library media specialists must do regularly if they want to maintain the best possible collections for their school libraries. It is a professional responsibility.”

A “Weeding the School Library” brochure provided by Erkeneff, references the acronym MUSTY as coined by the American Library Association in 1976.

■ “Misleading” includes dated popular fiction, or books containing racial, cultural or sexual stereotyping;

■ “Ugly” refers to the physical condition of the book;

■ “Superseded” books include publications with newer editions available;

■ “Trivial” deals with appropriateness of the collection;

■ “Your collection” refers to whether the book is irrelevant to the curriculum.

Erkeneff said district school library staff have been directed by District Librarian, Karla Barkman, to establish a weeding cycle in their libraries — meaning they choose a time period, perhaps five years, and decide what to weed in each of those years.

“It’s kind of like the laundry, one never ‘finishes,’” Barkman wrote.

With the upcoming Soldotna schools reconfiguration, Karen Hamlow, librarian for Skyview, has been weeding through the school’s collection since the beginning of the school year.

Hamlow said the school’s total collection is more than 17,000 books with 10,000 of the books 20 years old or older. The average age of the reference collection is 28 and the average age of the regular book collection, fiction and non-fiction, is 31.

With the weeding, Hamlow said 3,000 books have been removed from the collection and given to teachers, students and the community. The rest of the weeded books are either recycled or taken to the landfill.

Hamlow said the collection weeding began with the non-fiction collection. First to be purged from the shelf were titles including “Running for your Health in the 90s.”

She said she looks at the computer records of how many times the books had been checked out in the past 10 years, as well as the quality of the book — those with smelly and yellowed pages or damaged covers are often unappealing to library patrons.

“Those are the obvious first ones to go,” Hamlow said.

The next section to be weeded was fiction, which she started Tuesday. For fiction she looks back 15 years to see how many times a book has been checked out.

She said the next section she will work on is the biography section, which has the same criteria as the non-fiction, and will be replaced over time with current and relevant material.

Hamlow said in order for libraries to meet the new Alaska State Standards and to prepare students for the future, they need to provide accurate, visually competent, eye-appealing, up-to-date, non-fiction information.

“All of his means that most of our books still talk about the Cold War as a big threat to America and have the Trade Towers proudly representing America’s accomplishments. Much of the non-fiction has been ignored as obsolete for over a decade as technology has boomed and provided easy-to-use alternatives,” she said. “In my three years here I have checked out only a handful of non-fiction books because once a student opens a book he quickly sees the yellowed pages and the outdated styles of the people on the covers. He sees the pages filled with solid text and lacking pictures or graphics like charts, maps or even different fonts because when the books were published the technology was not available to insert graphics that communicate information with precision.”

Hamlow said the visual difference of today’s publications compared to those of years past is radical, and the effect on the student is just to put the old book down and move to a computer to find the information.

“I love the feel of an old book and even love the smell of them much of the time, but I will not use texts that prepare student for life in the 1990s when it is 2013.”

Books are available to teachers, students, as well as those in the community, although Hamlow clarified in an email sent Wednesday that the school campus is not open to the public during school hours.

“All community members who have taken books from here are approved to be here by filling out a volunteer application through the borough website,” she wrote.

Reach Sara Hardan at


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