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I just want to thank everyone who took the time to respond.  I was overwhelmed by 
the number of replies.  I decided to interfile my reference collection based on 
what the majority of you said.  Thanks again.
Some of you asked for a 'hit'. so here it is:
We are going to move many of our Ref. stuff to the regular stacks.  (However, if 
they are old and outdated - why not just weed?)  I think in 10 years our reference 
and non-fiction sections are going to look very different.
We are in the same place, and next fall will start rethinking the
reference section.  We have a whole room that it wasted space because of
the books anyone rarely uses or checks out, and could be used as active
study space (if we had furniture).  We are going to start moving sections
into the regular collection, and weeding again.  We did a huge weed of
reference last year, but have come to see what else needs to go with
another year's passage.
When I was in the HS, with the exception of a few books (most used by certain 
teachers for projects) our reference section was barely touched.  Depending on the 
situation, those that were used, we allowed students to check out on a restricted 
time basis.
Personal opinion, I would still order reference books, some of them are very 
informative and interesting, but I think they get more use and serve the population 
better when they are able to circulate. 
On the advise of another librarian in my district (props to C. Rancour), I began 
interfiling my reference books with the regular book about 3 years ago and I LOVE 
the results.  Because the books on like subjects are next to each other, kids see 
the reference books where they never saw the reference section before!  The are 
still on an overnight only check-out, but (anecdotally) circulation of reference is 
up.  I did keep the World Book, Ency. Americana, Almanacs, Unabridged Dictionaries 
and Atlases in a small, centrally located reference area, but that's it.
If they aren't used as reference - why would they be used in general circulation? I 
circulate all reference anyway so it isn't an issue for me. It is true that the 
reference collection isn't used as it was in the 60s, 70s 80s and 90s - my first 
year as a librarian was 1963). 

I don't buy any reference anymore - including almanacs, encyclopedias, etc. The 
students prefer the databases and actually I do so as well.

I still have about 800 titles in reference and they are used -- especially those 
for literary analysis, maps, etc. - but they are used in combination with the 
I'm not in a high school, but my question would be: how outdated?  If they are 
that bad, just get rid of them.  No information would be better than misleading or 
really old information, especially with the internet available.  So yes I would 
say intermingle the ones that still have some use and ditch the rest.
put them all into regular circulation. :)  for so many reasons.  I can expand on 
them if you wish.  but mainly they will get used more.

I marked all of them with green tape, just in case, I ever wanted to pt them back 
into their own section, but in 5 years I never found a reason why.
I believe that you need a strong reference section to teach students
what a reference section is for when they attend college.  The books are
very large and heavy, but more than that are usually much more expensive
if lost.  One of our roles as media specialists is to prepare students
for college.
I have been moving reference to circulating for a while now, and just
tossing the really outdated stuff. Yes, the reference section has been
shrinking. As far as the books being too heavy to check out... What,
have you guys been circulating unabridged dictionaries? I agree; pretty
if these large books are checked out, how will they hold up to more
frequent traffic use?  worth rebinding, buying new?
how long is your circulation on these items?  we have a three week
circulation and even then we have MANY overdues.  it would not be good
if others needed an encyclopedia volume and it was out for many weeks at
a time.
public libraries have reference areas - students should be aware of
such resources, special sections of libraries
just my 2 cents or maybe only 1 ½
My reference section has 3 sets of encyclopedias, some dictionaries, thesaurus, and 
current almanac that I believe should remaind in ref.  The rest of it is a 
compilation of books that should probably be thrown out because of age, and "coffee 
table" type books that were deemed too unwieldly for students to check out (they 
were probably also expensive!)
I, too, have been toying with the idea of doing exactly what you said but never got 
around to doing it.  I'm retiring this year, but have left that as a "thing to be 
considered" for the person who comes after me.
2 years ago I had to run a library from a VERY small room for a year and a half.  
I made up a reference cart with about 30 basic sources. I also had online access to 
databases and the Grolier encyclopedias.  I didn't miss my book reference 
collection one bit!

This year in my new library I weeded my reference section deeply.  Like Allan I 
mainly have the literary resources for specific papers and some specialized 
encyclopedias and dictionaries.  Even so I am pretty much the only person that 
uses the section. 

I could definitely see myself recataloging the whole section someday.
personally I believe we should have a reference section in every library.  If we 
are preparing our students for lifelong learning - every library I have ever been 
in public, college, university etc has a reference section.  One of the main 
complaints I hear from college professors is that students have no idea how to do 
research if it doesn't involve a computer..  Most college research requires 
printed material as well as online.  I do not want my students to walk into a 
college library and ask what is a reference section.  But that is just my opinion
We are in the process of substantially weeding our reference collection.  We are 
then going to interfile the rest of the reference collection into the general 
collection.  We're doing this for a few reasons,  first, we've been purchasing 
more and more e-reference which has been more cost effective., secondly, we moving 
toward the newer philosophy of putting everything on the same topic together. 
 (I'm looking forward to the day when I can interfile my AV into the general 
collection); thirdly, we are moving our circ. desk to the area where our reference 
section currently lives, so it is timely for us to do this now.
Suzanne - I agree with you!  I am gradually filtering all my reference into the 
General Collection.  Most of what is in my small ref collection includes 
dictionaries, thesaurus, print encyclopedias, etc.
First of all, what do your State standards say? If you are accredited by another 
agency, you will also need to check their standards.

If you are NOT required to have a reference section, then you can, indeed, move 
everything that is useful to the circulating section. I think I'd keep at least a 
basic REF section of an encyclopedia, an almanac or two, and a couple of 

Here in Missouri we are moving toward reducing the REF section because so much is 
available from the databases. We count REF books with nonfiction now, and many of 
us have actually transferred some of the books to the circulating section. I'm down 
to seven shelves for REF, and six of those are multi-volume encyclopedia-type 
works. We're required to maintain one print general encyclopedia that is less than 
five years old. I've been keeping four sets (I buy one set each year for four 
years, and the fifth year I spend the money on other REF books). I'm going to cut 
down to two sets, purchased in alternate years, and let the other two sets go to 
I am asking myself the same questions. There are some books I want that I'd rather 
not check out, however. But I have not done much adding lately.
I've been having the same thoughts, or at least I'm thinking of seriously reducing 
the size of reference. Mine is quite large and I find myself lending the books out 
anyway in many cases. I'd still keep the largest of the books as reference, and the 
ones that would be really expensive to replace, but I'm thinking much of what is in 
Ref would get more use on the nonfiction shelves.
I'm doing away with mine-I haven't bought anything new since 2007 and that was an 
encyclopedia.  I am slowly removing the books in that section to the circulation 
section or the circular file. They are never used and are just there for decoration 
and to fill a part of the library which will be redesigned in the next two years.
I'm dealing with the same issue.  I recently weeded -- rather heavily -- our 
small, outdated reference section and literally cried over whole sets that had 
never, ever been used in 15 - 20 years.  I do plan to keep a small reference 
section targeted towards specific units that I know my teachers cover.  We always 
have a few students who work too slowly to finish an assignment on the computer 
here but don't have one at home, or some who are absent and can't get in to use one 
of our few computers at a later time (I have 15 computers for a high school 
population of 1400), and so on..  But I will not build it back up to its 
pre-database size.  Especially since I will have no money to spend on anything 
next year, and who knows about the next few years after that?
Hope my input helps.
We recently (within the last month) interfiled our reference section with the 
general stacks.  I was not a huge fan of the idea when the other librarian I work 
with (the head librarian) wanted to do so, because I thought it was valuable for 
the students to see the differences among the types of reference books and to have 
our collection organized the way that public and college libraries are.  Her 
argument was that the reference works would get more use if they were simply 
interfiled; the students, she said, are barely willing to go to one spot, let alone 
two, to search for information.

Now that we've completed the process, I'm much more on board with the idea.  Not 
only is she right, that it simplifies searching for the students, but the process 
of moving and interfiling the books allowed us to see titles that could/should be 
weeded in both the reference and general collections.
I, too, am rarely ordering any “reference” materials.  As I weed titles from 
this section, I’m not replacing them.  Some titles that would have been placed 
in that section years ago, I am now placing into regular circulation.  With the 
use of online databases and Google, students avoid that section of the library like 
the plague.


Suzanne McRae 
Library Media Specialist
Soundview Campus, Bronx, NY 


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