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Thanks so much for all the advice.  Much of it echoed what I was thinking,
but is is great to have the collective wisdom of this group supporting my
thoughts.  Thanks again.

I was in a similar position in my last job. The first year I weeded very
little so I could get a feel for what was used even though I knew what the
circulation figures showed. If any "old" titles are on the required reading
list, try replacing them with attractive paperbacks. Even when books are
required I found students would choose the editions that LOOKED shorter,
lol, or that had more interesting covers, even though the text inside was
exactly the same. Also you should discuss with the English teachers and let
them know what you are thinking of discarding; do they have problems with
that or are there any authors/books they would like to see added?  If they
want you to hold on to certain authors/titles I would also slowly order new
paperback editions. I did not get too far with my project but I totally
understand that it's hard to get rid of "classics" but if they're just
sitting on the shelf and not being read, it's time for a different

We've tried to gradually replace our scruffy classics with newer, brighter
editions of titles that our teachers are teaching in class, titles that
make the lists such as "Outstanding Books for the College Bound," and
titles that are needed for such things as the AP English test.  As for
culturally literates & oldies, we replace the ones that students are
currently reading.  The others usually end up as brand new shelf-sitters.

I went through the non-moving books (classics) and purchased new rebound or
paperback copies of about half of them. I deleted the old copy when the new
one arrived - if we were replacing it. Some went out because of the "new
face" and some did not. I did have the help of the other high school
librarian (she was an English Teacher before getting her MLS) because I was
an Elementary Librarian for 15 years before I changed. The Jungle by
Sinclair went out, Defoe did not.

Here's what I'd do in your position. Remember that this advice is worth
exactly what you paid for it.

I'd start by weeding paperbacks that are candidates for the trash can just
based on appearance. Before you toss them, check their circulation history,
just in case. If you happen to find one that actually has circulated
recently you can put that title on your next book order.

Once you've cleaned up the ratty paperbacks you can do the same with the
hardbound books. Your "classics" probably fit in this category, which is
why I separated them from paperbacks. You might want to talk to your
teachers about whether or not anyone would use any of the "classics" if you
had decent copies available. Be creative in your thinking - don't just go
to the English teachers. Would a science teacher be interested in
recommending Moby Dick along and other books for an environmental unit?

As for replacements, look at what your kids are reading now, and let that
guide you. If you have some reluctant readers, but still kids that you have
a good relationship with, ask them if they would like to pick some books
for the library. In exchange for their help they will get first chance at
the new books when they come in. Then BUY THE BOOKS! You can do the same
with the teachers. In fact, most new textbooks include suggested additional
readings. Get those lists and buy some of those books. Then let those
teachers know their books are in.

For the most part, I think they just like to read new stuff - it is really
hard to get them to read classics or other titles that in the past have
been major titles.  It is also difficult to find many students that really
like to read these days - they want to watch a movie instead or play video
games.  They are programmed to be entertained - not to entertain themselves
with a quiet book, which makes me very sad, because they are missing out on
so much!

Have you compared your listing with the English dept.'s required reading
list? My first suggestion on purchasing would be to buy new copies of the
required reading lists. I would also offer the older "ought to reads" to
your instructors, for their personal classroom libraries. If no one at your
school will touch them with a ten-foot pole, why are you keeping them? Find
them a new home---offer them on Freecycle---or let the students know they
are theirs for their reading

I came into a school with a similar record.  Here's what I did--not saying
that it's THE answer, but it worked for me.

First thing I did was throw out all of the old nasty, dirty, smelly books.
As soon as I did that, fiction checkout picked up.  Then I purchased as
many current fiction books that I could afford.  I just kept them coming in
all the time so that there were always "new" books sitting out everywhere.
(I purchased a great book rack that shows the fronts of 80 books at a time
and that's where I put my new books now)  The kids were not used to new,
current fiction--they loved it and mentioned frequently that they never
used to have any good books in the library.

I did feel that I probably needed to keep most of the classics in the
library, but didn't want to spend much money on books that rarely or never
moved.  I bought them from BMI Educational Services, Inc. (website They have them already put into groups and you can just
purchase the groups.  That makes them really, really cheap to put on the
shelves.  Now those teachers that think the classics are the only books fit
to read are happy because they're still there--and new; and the kids are
happy that they are paperbacks (if they're forced to read them).
Surprisingly, the classics are also moving now by student choice--could it
be because they're new books that they think they're newly written?

I felt like I had written your message three years ago!  I was in exactly
the same position -- replaced a librarian with health/attitude problems who
still lived in the 70's in terms of what was "good" fiction.  We had about
1000 fiction books (in a small library for 350 students), most of which
were unusable.  My first year I weeded 1500 books (from a collection of
about 4000), including what I think was the definitive collection of 1950's
teenage fiction!  These books were older than I was (and I was 55 at the
time!), and yes, I remember reading many of them, but I know that none of
these kids is interested in anything that isn't set in a current time (and
even I saw them as dated).  This is another issue, but one that we must
face -- if we want kids to read, we must give them what they'll read.

Anyway, I did keep the classics (the real classics, as I see them --
Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, Faulkner, etc.) and got rid of most of the rest.
I am glad I kept the classics, because we do have one teacher who insists
that her students read one "classic" for a book report, and these have been
helpful.  You do have to anticipate future teachers' needs and

Otherwise, I bought heavily my first year, with my principal's blessing --
he realized what a mess the library was and how few students used it for
anything.  I bought many young adult books and some popular adult authors
and some fantasy, such as Eddings and Salvatore, and behold -- the kids
actually started reading!  In fact, I still get comments three years later
from teachers about how surprised and pleased they are to see kids opening
a book when they have a few minutes to kill.  To save money (we have
funding issues in rural Ohio), I used an open P.O. to buy cheap paperbacks
at Half-Price Books (they give a 10% discount to teachers) and at Barnes
and Noble (my local Pittsburgh store gives a 20% for books used in a
school).  That way I can take more of a risk as I seek out authors that the
kids like (and that are somewhat appropriate for school -- another issue).
On the whole, the kids are surprised that an old lady will buy "cool" books
on teenage issues and have responded favorably.

Good luck -- don't be afraid to throw things out.  Dirty, torn books are a
turnoff to anyone, but esp. to a kid who hasn't learned to love books

I think you and I inherited the same collection.  After a year and a half
and a couple of weeding mistakes (reducing our astronomy section by half
because everything had been published before 1965), I've reached the
conclusion that you have to move slowly.  I would definitely dump the
Brancatos.  They are ridiculous.  Otherwise, do not replace with copies of
the same thing--no one you mentioned is so important that kids will be
deprived if you are without copies.  I would work on updating with new
stuff so that the shelves are bulging with bright, colorful, up-to-date
hardbacks.  Replace your classics (Dickens, Wells, London, etc.) with new
paperback copies that can easily be tossed when they wear out.  DON'T
invest in JF Cooper or Pearl Buck.  Go for the new, wow books and your
fiction section will start circulating.

Do you have a state award?  The lists of nominees can be very useful as far
as determining which authors are exciting kids in your area.  We have a
nice selection of our past and current nominees (Sequoyahs in Oklahoma)
which circulate constantly.

You need a selection of S.E. Hinton and Lois Lowry.  I'd keep those up--no
one reads Herman Wouk or James Michener, for heaven's sake.  Have you read

Talk to your English teachers--what would they like to see on your shelves?
What would they bring their kids down to check out?

A librarian friend of mine at a high school has found that book talks are a
good way to generate some new interest in old material. Perhaps if you
focused on 2 - 3 from each collection, it would spark some interest in
those and others like them.

I am in a very similar situation.  I started my new library media
specialist job this September after being a classroom teacher.  I am in a
high school with a VERY old fiction collection – it is very small and no
one used it, ever.  Apparently the previous librarian who had been here
since 1982 didn’t see the value of reading for pleasure.  She only bought
reference materials and books that “supported the curriculum”.  So, the
average publication date for the fiction is the 1960’s!!!  It is really

So far I have weeded like crazy; removing as much as I can that hasn’t gone
out in the last 5 years.  However, this is almost everything.  What I did
do was keep some of the classics that are in better condition – many of the
authors you named.  I ordered new copies of the really smelly ones.  I went
to and looked at some of their lists.  They had a good
must have ultimate reading list.  I ordered a lot from that.  Basically,
when it comes to YA titles, I think the more current ones are more
appealing and will be read.  My goal is to buy as much current YA as I can.
I also have been buying the Alex Award books – the ALA awards for Adult
books for teens.  Their website is very helpful – the YALSA site.

I think that weeding all the old stuff is essential.  If no one has read it
in five years, it is time for it to go.  I still have a lot of old fiction
on the shelves – I couldn’t remove everything.  But already I have seen
more and more kids coming in a looking for the new books – they are very
excited about them.

When I weeded my collection several years ago I put new plastic covers on
all the books that I kept.  It helps make the library look nicer.

I have never been a HS librarian---so I may be just talking through my

How about pulling the "new" and exciting novels into a section—knowing that
these will circulate.

Next, the musty oldies--place a dot on the top of the spine--if it is
checked out, remove the dot and then shelf with the "new" section.

Of the ones that after 1 year have NOT circulated AGAIN, determine if it is
because of the trappings, or if it is because of dated material.  May need
to talk to teachers and see if they are planning a unit around the books in
the near future.

Otherwise, you have good justification for weeding the titles.
Noncirculating data for several years, contacting teachers for future
needs.  Then chuck away those that are worn, decide to replace those that
you think are still relevant to today's students.

I "inherited" the same situation.  My average age of the collection was
1961 for NF and 1980 for entire collection.  I have books on the shelves
that are over 100 years old.  Hard to believe.

I keep at least one of each of the main stream classics.  I kept Moby Dick
but nothing else by the same author that is not well known.  You just have
to have the "classics".

As far as the popular authors from a while ago, hang on to one copy of
them.  Often I will get a student reading one of those authors and they
tell their friends, etc.  I promote those good ol' books.

We put new Mylar covers on some of them so they look nice and new. We got
rid of the beat up books.

So far in 1.5 years I have weeded over 1500 yucky old books.  Can't even
sell them used.  I had a book sale and the rest got sent to the recycle

My classics generally circulate when they are needed in concert with an
English assignment.  If the teachers aren't pushing them and the students
aren't reading them, perhaps you could replace them with other titles. It
is difficult to deselect a classic but my target is to have the collection
reflect closely what is in the curriculum.  Of course if I did the age
versus circulation check I'm certain I would find lots of titles that you'd
have to pry from the shelves.  I have been dismayed by the popularity of
the "A-List" and similar books that I would never have considered high
school reading.  But, they circulate so I keep buying them. I suppose you
have to find the level that your students and teachers are happy with on
the classics vs. popular reading.

I have just faced your dilemma with fiction.  And, I wholeheartedly agree
about the dilemma with uncirculating classics.  I used my background as a
veteran high school English teacher and pragmatic high school librarian and
weeded and gave away for free titles which students will never and probably
don't ever have to read.
I kept duplicate copies of the oldies but goodies.  Then, I went through
available books at Baker and Taylor and Follett and replaced the must-reads
with new, not dusty or yellowed flashy versions of them (mostly in
The major problem that I encountered is that many classics are no longer
available for purchase, so my advice is don't weed until you find if you
can locate replacements for what you want to toss. Your list of classics
and culturally literate reads are the precise ones I kept.  The YA stuff I
gave away.
The response to my free giveaway was terrific from students and basically
ignored by faculty, which in itself was very interesting.

I read your post on LM_NET (which I have been reading for a class in
library school) and I just wanted to say that most of the authors you
listed besides SE Hinton never check out at my urban public library.
I think the best way to approach your situation is ordering the new authors
like M.T. Anderson (Burger Wuss and Feed) ... well let me just list what I
remember either title or author.....
"Fat Kid Rules the World” wonderful book but beware there is a lot of
"City of Ember"
"Sweetblood" by Pete Hautman...any of his books
I really like Walter Dean Myers' "Monster" if you need more urban fiction
you should get "Flyy Girl" even though it is adult title.

My 14 yr old nephew loved "Hatchet" of any Gary Paulson

Gay fiction -- "Keeping you a Secret" by Julie Ann Peters

"Blood and chocolate" --the movie is coming out but it is a YA novel

"Companions of the Night" and any of her other books

For Horror titles --the "Cirque du Freak" series

For Anime "oh my goddess" series (with anime just read them first to check
for violence or nudity but this series is pretty tame)

There are so many more look on ALA's website for quick picks then read them
or have a student be your guinea pig to read them and give opinions.

Paul D. Birkby
Media Specialist
Penfield High School
25 High School Drive
Penfield, NY 14526

The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change,
the realist adjusts the sails. -William Arthur Ward, college administrator,
writer (1921-1994)

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