Necessary Sacrilege: Weeding Collections among People of the Book

By Daniel L. Ireton.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In theory and practice it is understood that a robust collection management philosophy must at times include weeding of the collection. This action, the discarding of materials no longer fit for a library’s holdings, is often met with resistance from library patrons. Librarians themselves may feel uncomfortable with discarding materials, even though they understand the necessity of weeding, leading many libraries to disguise their actions. Indeed, libraries may find themselves at times gifted with large volumes of discarded books “rescued” by well-meaning patrons. This reluctance to throw books away stems from a deeply embedded cultural meme to regard books as sacred objects. All three Abrahamic faiths regard books as the literal Word of God. This reverence for certain texts carries over to all books, a fact which influences librarians and patrons unconsciously and creates this clash between the well-reasoned act of discarding useless material and the visceral feeling of “wrongness” that comes from throwing books away.

Keywords: Libraries, Collection Management, Religious Texts, Weeding

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.121-128. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 820.915KB).

Daniel L. Ireton

Assistant Professor/Undergraduate and Community Services Librarian, Undergraduate and Community Services Department, K-State Libraries, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA

I work primarily with undergraduate students, providing reference assistance and instruction in library tools and services. I also work heavily in outreach and engagement, spearheading events to bring students into the library and inform them of what libraries can provide. Prior to my faculty appointment, I worked at K-State Libraries in circulation and was in charge of sorting and maintenance of the physical collection. Along with my Masters in Libraries Science I have a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. My chief interests are learning styles and popular culture, with a focus in gaming and graphic novels. My interest in this particular topic came from my previous library position and curiosity about cultural influences on modern life.

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