SUNY Geneseo History professors spent some time recently “weeding” the history books on Milne’s top floor. Weeding is the kinder, gentler word librarians use for discarding books!
The reality is that every library has to discard books from time to time, to make room for new books and to rid the collection of old, outdated, and possibly misleading books. In the science and medical section, for instance, a book from 1950 could be dangerous, with information that has long since been proven wrong!
Weeding the history section, however, can be tricky because a book whose information is out of date still has use for historiography purposes, in other words, to study the changing interpretation of historical events over time. So, for instance, a book published in 1962 that mentions Malcolm X might not be accurate in light of recent research about Malcolm X, but that 1962 book may be extremely useful as a primary source when studying changing attitudes about race in this country.
The history professors, then, had to determine the worth of each book as an information source, as a classic historical text, and as a primary source, as well as considering the condition of the book, how easy the book would be to obtain on interlibrary loan, and if students at Geneseo are studying the topic or not. If a book doesn’t meet the criteria, out it goes! Since January, 522 books have been weeded from the Milne history collection, and 129 new history books have been ordered so far to replace them.
But don’t worry, the books we “weed” aren’t tossed in a garbage bin! We send them to a company called Better World Books, which re-sells them for us and sends us a portion of the profit, which we use to buy new books. A portion of Better World Books’ profit also funds high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.