Weeding 2.0

Posted on Sun 11 May 2008 in misc

Okay, this is definitely a lame thing to be thinking about at midnight on a Saturday, but I was just playing with the shelf browser in the Evergreen representation of our 780,000 bibliographic records (okay, that is definitely the wrong thing to be doing at midnight on a Saturday). For some reason, I was wandering through the subject collection pertinent to librarians (pray for my soul), noticed a book that probably should have been discarded years ago, and thought "Gee, i don't want to deal with this right now, but wouldn't it be nice if I could just mark this Weed me and forget about it until Monday?"

Then I realized that that wouldn't be a stretch at all. In Evergreen, users have "bookbags" to which they can add items. These bookbags can be shared as RSS feeds and otherwise easily exported into other formats. If we were running Evergreen for real, I could create a "Weed me!" bookbag, add in the suspect along with a bunch of other festering tomes, and send the RSS feed to a student to perform the manual labour. Or perhaps the RSS feed gets aggregated with other weeders' feeds and a weeding list gets generated on a monthly basis for efficient labour practices. You get the idea.

Of course, you would really want to have more information than just the stock shelf browsing interface at hand when making weeding decisions. For example, you would need a tally of recorded uses displayed beside the item, with the ability to drill down for totals by year. If you participate in a consortial "last copy standing" program, you would want a quick check to see if any other institutions still hold a copy of the resource. So, an enhanced interface would be needed to provide an experience that combines the traditional weeding approach of roaming the stacks and generating reports of items matching some minimum age and minimum usage criteria.

Think about it a little further though (I'm sure you're thinking a lot faster than me at this point; you're probably having the luxury of reading this at the beginning of the day, coffee in hand, invigorated after an early morning run in the lingering late spring chill... or not), and there are points in our institutional workflows where we could naturally introduce weeding activities. How do we get to the point of having three editions of a given text on the shelf? If I have the 1995, 2003, and 2007 editions of a text, I can assure you that when I ordered the 2007 edition I had already checked our ILS to see if we had a copy of that edition already, and would have noticed the previous editions. At that point, I should have the ability to say "Oh - get rid of the 1995 edition now and once the 2007 edition is processed and on the shelf, cull the 2003 edition to boot." If I was designing an acquisitions module today, that's certainly something I would consider as a nice-to-have. Ahem.

Weeding 2.0 may not be a sexy subject. Google and Yahoo each turn up exactly four hits, none of them related to libraries, which is remarkable in this overly-hyped everything 2.0 world. But it's something we should consider in the design and tailoring of our library systems; and while it's not going to rank in my top level of priorities for Evergreen, it will work its way in there somewhere, sometime. Hopefully before the stacks in my subject areas buckle under the weight of unused, out-of-date books.