That which we call a weed by any other name would smell as dusty

Before the mad rush that is the library summer reading program we decided to aggressively weed the fiction collections, a job that may have been a smidge overdue.  My criteria began with creating a report of every item that hasn’t circulated in two years.  My list was 215 pages long.  It quickly became apparent that not only had the collection not been weeded in a long time, it had never EVER been weeded.  The following list contains a few “gems” that I found, keep in mind that these books are only the authors with a “B” last name.  This list is meant to be funny and maybe a little sad.  Enjoy!

Baywatch: Earthquake! – Casey Brady

The world was a simpler place when this book was published.  The names David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson only brought one thing to mind: Baywatch.  Now one is more famous for a video of himself eating a cheeseburger and we won’t get into the video that made the other one notorious.

Did You Hear About Amber? – Cherie Bennett

You didn’t hear about Amber??  That’s OK nobody’s heard about this Amber for about 10 years now.

The Rabbit Tattoo – Susannah Brin

All the cool kids have tattoos especially neck tattoos, but a rabbit tattoo I just don’t think that trend has caught on yet.  The rabbit on his neck seems to looking for something and upon closer inspection you can see he is looking for his teeth, which are in the mouth of the kid.  Poor artwork, poor book.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Campbell Black

There is nothing spectacularly wrong with this book, I mean there’s even a new Indiana Jones movie out.  The problem lies when I opened the book up.  Our library acquired this book in November of ’81.  That is one month after I was born.  I’m 28 now, there is just no reason for this book to be on the shelf.

The 79 Squares – Malcolm J. Bosse

Let’s explore this cover shall we.  What is really going on here?  From the looks of it, this could be a man soliciting a young boy, the man has his arm outstretched with what I can only imagine is some sort of hard candy, Wherther’s Originals perhaps?  But the tag line tells us this the story of “an old man and his garden show a tough kid what survival really means”.  Tough kid?  Really?  What makes him tough: his white tee, his K-Swiss (note the 4 stripes), or those single stripe tube socks?  Take your pick.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t – Judy Blume

Young adult walks into the YA section and wants a Judy Blume book, they pick up this book and think “maybe I’ll check this out”.  They take one look at the cover and think “then again, maybe I won’t”.


Judge A Book By Its Cover

As librarians, part of our job is to make sure that we sneak little life lessons into our patron interactions.  Lessons in copyright, when we’re talking to teens about finding an image for their “band flier” or adding music to a YouTube video.  Lessons in ethics, when we are setting up a Smash Bros. tournament.

What about the old idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?”   When it comes to the teen sitting at the back of the room afraid to speak up in a Teen Advisory Board Meeting, it still applies.  Your YA  fiction collection is an entirely different story.

One of the first things I did when I was hired as the Young Adult Librarian was weed the YA Fiction section.  I was brutal.  I removed anything that hadn’t circulated in the past 3 years.  (We had titles sitting on the shelf that hadn’t been checked out since 1998!)  I weeded titles with dog-eared pages and covers that were falling off.  I tossed entire series where one or two books had gone out recently but more of the titles hadn’t gone out in years.  When I was finished, I had four full carts of books ready to be deleted from the collection.  Some of the books I replaced with newer, more attractive covers but most of them are gone forever.

It is hard for librarians to get rid of books.  We love them.  We hand them out for free to whomever we can.  We promote them.  We talk about them.  We create displays and book lists.  We beat our heads against the wall because teens won’t admit to reading for pleasure.   We need to remember is that it is part of our job to get books into the hands of our patrons.  If they come into the library and see three ugly books for every appealing book, they won’t come back.  If all the books on the shelves are attractive, they won’t know where to start.  The Young Adult Fiction statistics went up by almost 3,000 circulating items the year after that I weeded the collection.

So, go ahead.  Judge a book by its cover.  Your collection and your teens will thank you.

Additional Reading:
Operation Facelift: Cover Makeovers Can Be the Fountain of Youth for Many Titles by Leigh Ann Jones — School Library Journal, 9/1/2009