Nancy at my library recently left a couple of dozen books about politics and government on the weeding cart for us to consider. Among the many that it was easy to withdraw from our collection because they were obviously dated and no longer being read was Compassionate Conservatism by Marvin Olasky with a foreward by George W. Bush. I remembered this as a book that was hot during the 2000 presidential campaign. It was reported that it contained the principles that guided Mr. Bush as governor of Texas and that he would use as president if elected. According to Nancy's notes, the book, which we acquired in 2000, was not borrowed from our library until 2003 and had not been borrowed ever again. So, it had just one circ in seven years. It should be easy to withdraw based on local non-performance.
However, I hesitated to dump it. Wasn't it supposed to be an important book in our continuing political debate? Was it a fluke that it did so poorly at my library?
I checked the records on the SWAN database, which is shared by almost eighty libraries. Eleven libraries currently own the book. I have no way of knowing if others have already withdrawn it. Of the eleven copies, two have been borrowed in 2007 and one went out in 2006. Our is next in line as most recently borrowed. The other seven have not been out since 2000, 2001, or 2002. Only one copy, the one held by the largest library of the eleven, has as many as eleven circs. Most have four or fewer circs. Most of the larger libraries in our system do not currently own the book. I suspect these libraries have already tossed it. It seems it would be easy to do likewise.
I love to weed books, but still, I hesitated. I wondered whether I would be throwing out an important bit of history if I weeded the book. On the other hand, I feared I would just be cluttering the shelves with another dead book if I kept it.
I started to actually read the book and my answer became obvious. Compassionate Conservatism is really just a follow up to The Tragedy of American Compassion by Olasky, which was published in 1992. The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that had the endorsement of conservative politicians. Compassionate Conservatism reports on Olasky's visits to states and cities where the principles were being applied in the late 1990s. It seems incidental and includes what are now old statistics in need of being revised.
There are still ten more copies of this book in the system should we need it.
We are freeing seven eighths of an inch on our shelves.