Killing Your Darlings (A reflection on weeding)
Weeding. Sometimes, it seems such a violent act. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings. And for me, that time came in 2011. And it involved my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
You see, as a Buffy fan I had been on standing order for the book series since forever. But time marches on, shows get cancelled, and new fandoms emerge.
I had read every single one of the Buffy and Angel books on my teen shelves. And together, the series took over a shelf and a half of precious space.
The problem wasn’t even that the books weren’t being read. Angel really wasn’t, but the Buffy books still flew off the shelves. Well, flew off the shelves may be a bit of hyperbole, but they definitely earned their keep.
No, the problem was an entirely different problem that comes with age and use: they were – quite literally – beginning to fall apart. Sometimes it seemed as if when you took the book off the shelf it might just disintegrate into dust like you had staked a vampire right there in the teen area. All that would remain was a pile of dust that used to be the stories on the page.
So one final, fateful, mournful day, I did the unthinkable. I killed my darlings. I took every single last Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel book off of the shelves. I swiped them with the magic wand that would remove them from the collection. I crossed out their barcodes. I stamped them withdrawn. And I shoved them all in a box.
I think that box stayed under my desk for about a month. Maybe I would change my mind. Maybe a patron would ask for them. Maybe I would just take them home.
None of those things happened. They were in such bad shape that the Friends didn’t even want them in their annual book sale, so they were recycled. It seemed such an inglorious end to this thing that I loved so dearly.
By the time I had finally gotten up the courage to this evil seeming deed, the series has stopped publication for a few years. There were no new titles coming in. The show was off TV. This new crop of teens were asking for different vampire books and television series. But it hurt, this thing I had to do. It hurt more than any other weeding moment in my life.
The other day, we hired a new circulation clerk. She came up to me and whispered the name of a book that she thought we should never, ever, ever, weed from our library. “Be sure you check it out,” I told her. She was perplexed. “If you want a book to stay in the library and you are worried it won’t, check it out.” But the truth is, sometimes just circulating isn’t enough.
Sometimes books die horrible deaths. They fall apart. They reach a point where they can’t be glued, taped or mended any more. They go out of print and can’t be re-ordered. They simply die. Even well loved ones.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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