One of the realities of life in a medium small public library is that the amount of shelf space for books is always limited. The promise of electronic books freeing up space has not come true for us as yet. Like many other libraries, we have gotten to the point that we need to withdraw a book for every book we add. It has certainly come to that point with all of our books about the Clinton and Bush II presidential administrations. Books are being piled on top of books. Having just placed orders for some more new titles that are forecasted to generate reading interest this fall, I decided that I had to weed 973.929 and 973.931.
How did I do?
973.929 was pretty easy. I found eight books about the Clinton administration that had not been out in two or more years that I doubt will be requested in the future. Some were from early in the administration and later books tell more up-to-date stories. Some focused on cabinet members. One was about how Gingrich would be stirring up more trouble. It was easy to let these go. I kept anything by or about Hillary Clinton, including Dear Socks Dear Buddy. The “long tail” of public interest of which I hear may whip these items back into currency. I kept twenty-four books in the area, so I withdrew twenty-five percent.
973.931 was harder. The covers of many of the books still shine. Most of the titles that had not been out recently were about September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and still seemed relevant. The books about the president’s character (pro and con) had all been out recently, as had the books about the conduct of the war in Iraq, but some had only been out two or three times total. I would think that these books should be jumping off the shelves. While I would like to free up some space, I could not decide which titles would not be read soon. I would still like to get some value out of all of them. I withdrew nothing.
My thoughts return to the books I am ordering. I do not want to get caught without books that are going to be demanded, but I do not want to waste our limited funds (and shelving space) on titles that will mostly sit. What am I to do? I have to accept the reality that I can not perfectly predict which books will be well read and buy the potentially hot books and shift other books to make a little more room. Still, it bugs me.