Weeding Board Books- a slightly icky task..


Weeding books is usually looked upon by the public as one of the worst things a librarian can do. Those poor books! Why would you toss perfectly good books? The shock… the horror…

I usually get some odd looks from patrons when I go on a heavy weeding spree. In the past I have had a patron reluctantly hand me a picture book with a giant rip with a look of pure desolation on her face and the following question: “Can’t you just tape it?” Nope, that baby is destined for the annual Library sale or if it is really bad, the recycling bin.

I confess it has taken me a long time to get over the “we should just tape it” thought process. My previous job as a School Library Assistant had me taping, gluing, and bringing back to life books that we would immediately weed at the public library. I still have the temptation to get out the book tape or the glue. However, my coworkers have taught me well and the Collections department would have my head if I tried it.

Weeding is necessary. Weeding is good. Weeding frees up space for newer titles. Weeding keeps your shelves from looking like this:

We weed so that our books put their best face forward when checked out by patrons. When patrons get a dirty, torn, stained, or scribbled in book they are less likely to take good care of it. Why bother when it already is a mess? A nicer book in theory, has a better chance of returning just as nice. I know that weeding has its pitfalls and there are issues such as your budget to consider, but that is for another day. I am just telling you briefly why we weed at our branch.

So this brings me to board books… aka the ickiest books in the library and the most loved.

Fact: Babies are not careful with books. They don’t have the fine motor skills of their older peers and turning pages is a no go. Yanking, chewing, slapping, throwing, barfing on books is pretty standard and expected behavior by this group. We want them to do this (okay maybe not the barfing bit). It is how they get started on the path to reading. It is also the reason why we weed these books more than others.

This is a sample of what I found on my last weeding project:

1. Chew marks- Everything goes in a child’s mouth at a young age. One word: Teething

2. Bends and peeling pages- These books get tossed, stepped on, and abused by eager little readers.

3. Scribbles- Hide those sharpies! I found one book where I am pretty sure the kid might have looked like this after he was finished:

4. Unidentified brown stains- TRASH! Do not pass go.. do not attempt to clean.. head straight to the trash and dispose! Wash hands 50 thousand times!

5. Barf stains- See #4

6. Sour milk smells- likely from #5

7. Crazy outdated books- I swear these books show up randomly in every section. It’s like they live in a black hole and mysteriously appear out of the blue.

8. Mold from water damage- See #4. This is a huge health issue.

9. Broken binding- Yes gluing is an option but not at our branch. Plus, the book might end up in someones mouth. Is that glue safe?

10. So well loved that it’s falling apart- These books make me smile. You can tell they are a favorite from the wear. I always reorder these books.

This is a small sample of why I weed and why it is a good thing. If you haven’t checked over your board book shelves in a while I highly encourage you to get on it. Remember these babies get used for more than just reading!



Question of the day: What is the grossest thing you have found while weeding?



  1. thejedilibrarian

    I’ve done a couple of weeding projects, so I’ll have to get back to you on what the grossest thing I’ve seen/found is. My current library had a massive weeding last year when they threatened to close it (despite having a high circulation rate and great location we are the branch that is always on the chopping block it seems) so the manager and I don’t want to do any weeding anytime soon, unless we have to. Just about everything has gone out in the last year in the YA section, so I don’t want to weed it, even though space is at a premium.

    But when I do, I’ll let you know what I find.


    • MsVal313

      Wow! I cannot believe you are on the chopping block so much. That has to be stressful. Weeding is a necessary evil. I am moving over to the teen section next week. I have a massive weeding project ahead of me.


      • thejedilibrarian

        We were last Summer, but I wasn’t working here yet. And that wasn’t the first time, either. This fiscal year, we seemed to make it through. So that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will all be good from here on out.


  2. authorleighmichaels

    This is an interesting read, and something I haven’t really considered much, though I do briefly touch on it with a character in one of my books :-). I think the reasoning is definitely sound – especially with those board books!


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