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Crumb Library Weeding Project 2012: Faculty Announcement Email

Email sent to all faculty 2/6/2012

Faculty colleagues,

I write to let you know about several projects planned for the physical collections of Crumb Library.  In Spring Semester 2012, the staff of the College Libraries will undertake four major projects (described below). Each project is designed to serve two goals:

  1. Build, curate, and maintain a collection of print materials that supports the needs of our current curriculum.
  2. Ensure that the physical collections of Crumb Library are well-balanced against the available space and programmatic needs of the College Libraries.

Collection Building is more than just buying new books each year. We dedicate more than $130,000 annually to purchasing new books, and have been building the collections of the College Libraries for as long as there have been libraries on our campus -- much of our 200 year history -- but we have not comprehensively evaluated our collections for some time. Recent data analysis shows that 40% of the books we purchase in any given year don't circulate to users, a problem compounded by the passage of time and aging of information. We are working to make better choices when we purchase new materials, but the aging and unused portions of the collection remain on our shelves. In order to ensure we have a relevant, dynamic, and valuable collection, we must begin to evaluate all of our holdings. While we have worked with individual faculty or departments to evaluate small sections of the collection, we have focused largely on books, and have allowed our work to proceed as quickly or slowly as our other workloads dictated.  In short, we have not focused on curation or maintenance with the same intensity we apply to buying. The result is that Crumb's collection is no longer as strong as it could be.

And our collection/service balance is off, in Crumb, as well. 12% of the collection is housed in ADA-non-compliant space in the basement of Crumb that was awkwardly retrofitted for public use, and another 11% of the collection is housed in spaces the initial architectural plans intended as teaching and learning space. Student use of Crumb is increasing by 10-20% each year, and our ability to support those students with good study space is dependent on reallocating facilities resources between collections and users. The good news is that Crumb Library is fortunate to be looking ahead to significant renovation in the next cycle of capital funding. In light of that, we anticipate having to physically move every single item in the library. Planning for that labor-intensive and mission-critical project requires that we review our materials in a significant way, and retain those items valuable to our current curriculum but do not keep (and move, and store) things that we cannot expect will be used in physical formats.  When this pending project and its complexities is combined with our acknowledgement that a collection review is necessary and overdue, it becomes clear that we must undertake these projects with all due seriousness.

To these ends, the following four projects are beginning:

  1. Government documents. David Trithart continues to review the Government Documents collection, choosing titles to keep and titles to discard based on use, relevance, and the movement of government information online.
  2. Reference. Nancy Alzo is considering all of the holdings in our Reference Collection, focusing on moving things to the general stacks, discarding older volumes when superseded by new editions, and assessing the relevance and use of materials.
  3. Print periodicals. A team of librarians is evaluating periodicals which our data show have low or no use in the last nine years. Relevance, patterns of use, availability of online access, and physical condition are determining factors for retention or discard.
  4. Pre-1950 monographs with no circulation since 2003. A team of librarians is evaluating all books published before or in 1950 which have not circulated or been consulted in-house since before 2003, considering curricular relevance and availability of online access. Faculty participation in this process is invited (see below)

It is our hope that these four projects will strengthen our collections, position Crumb Library to take full advantage of the funding being offered for renovations, and will allow us to create an iteration of Crumb Library that is both visionary and effective for our campus community as we support our teaching and learning goals.

If you are interested in participating in the pre-1950 monograph project, this is the plan:

  1. Each librarian on the team will evaluate approximately 100 books each week, making initial recommendations for keep and discard.
  2. A list of that week’s proposed discards will be posted online on Wednesday, at
  3. Marianne Hebert will notify all departmental library liaisons by email that a new list has been posted.
  4. For two weeks after posting of the list, all faculty may send feedback on the list by using our weeding feedback form which is linked from the website hosting the discard lists.
  5. After two weeks, the librarian team will review all feedback, and adjust the weeding lists appropriately, and submit the items to the Libraries’ Collection Management team for pulling, processing, and discard.

Faculty are understandably interested in what happens to items removed from our collections. Most of our discarded books are being processed by Better World Books (, a vendor that has a used book storefront and supports literacy initiatives while also returning a percentage of profits to the submitting library. Using Better World Books is a cost-free way to reduce our in-house workload, ensures we consign fewer books to dumpsters and landfills, and provides a mechanism for the community to purchase the used, discarded books if they so choose. SUNY Potsdam’s “Online Sidewalk Sale” at Better World Books is at

If you have any questions about this process, please contact me, and I will discuss your concerns with you.




Crumb Library: 315-267-2485
Crane Library: 315-267-2451

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SUNY Potsdam College Libraries
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