Believe it or not, every week the collection at your local library changes. Every week new books arrive and are put in the collection while yucky, damaged, or falling apart books are removed from our collection. Here at the Seaside Public Library we use the “just in time” philosophy of library collection development.

If you haven’t heard, Salem Public Library is in the news right now because of the change to their collection that they are proposing. While what they are doing may seem to be a very drastic change to their collection, weeding a collection is actually very common in libraries and most libraries do it weekly if not monthly. I love the quote from speaking to other librarians about library collections: Remember — unless your library exists to archive and preserve materials for the ages, we are not in the business of collecting physical things. We collect information and provide access to information. We love books as much as anyone else, and sometimes hard decisions have to be made. How many times have you said, “But I just bought that!” and then realized it was 10 years ago?

Libraries often remove books from the library when they are worn out, moldy, chewed on, or water-damaged.

We know that people don’t want to go to a library shelf and pull out a book that is sticky with half the pages missing and what is still in the book is about some country that doesn’t even exist anymore (the Soviet Union comes to mind).

Nobody would want to look for books at the library ever again. When people think of libraries, they think of pristine rows of like-new books both classics and new popular fiction that are in embossed shiny new covers that just beg to be read and have the latest, most up-to-date information. The reality is, if libraries are doing their job, books are being used.

They are taken outside, they are loved, read, sat on, and worse. So part of our library budget is spent replacing or repairing the well-loved books so each experience you have at the library continues to be great. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep our collection looking the way it does.

We have a book repairer and a volunteer who help our library collection managers find the yucky books and fix the ones we can.

There are actually many different ways that libraries create and build library collections. Two of the main schools of thought are the “just in case” or “just in time” library collections. The “just in case” collection keeps just about every book possible, just in case it is ever needed.

This type of library collection was the most popular from the early 1900s to about 1980s. Interestingly enough, around the time technology really started taking off for computers and cell phones is when the shift in schools of thought in library collections took place. As the world started to be a place where change was the constant, libraries took a hard look at their library collections and realized that many of the books on the shelf that they kept just in case were never used. Ever.

Instead, what people really wanted in addition to the classic books like “Little Women” or “Lord of the Flies,” was a collection that seemed fresh and new every time they walked in the door.

Libraries all started to take a closer look at their collections and in the 1990s up to today started to think about anticipating requests to be “just in time” for what folks needed or wanted.

Interlibrary loaning of materials from other libraries became more important because libraries could now say, we may not have it, but we can get it very soon. Seaside can request books from all over the United States this way. We even requested a book from the library at the CIA in Langley, Virginia, once. With the addition of digital ebooks and audiobooks in the 2000s another option for books opened up and many people thought paper books would go away completely. Instead, the demand was for both. People want all the formats and they want them easily and quickly available. Many people have a preference for either screen or paper form of books.

Digital books have definitely helped the Seaside Public Library in providing books exactly when folks need them. The Seaside Public Library prides itself on our collection. We have so many books on all kinds of topics and interests here at the Seaside Public Library.

Including our Library2Go ebook collection, we have access to over 80,000 items and that doesn’t include interlibrary loan. We have great collection developers at the Seaside Library and a good healthy budget for getting new books for you just in time.

So next time you pull a book off the shelf, let us know if it needs repair or take a moment to think about all the behind the scenes work that goes into our beautiful library.

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