Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not just for Gardens

I recently weeded my to-be-read list. Weeding is something librarians do every so often to keep the collection fresh and new so the good stuff actually circulates. Weeding motto: “Nobody actually needs a book on the space program from 1968.” (Oh-ho-ho. You think I jest. I really did weed this very book from the collection at my first library. It had been a long time since they’d discarded anything.)

I’m a bit of a packrat by nature (she says from under the massive stacks of books and yarn), and I’ve started to apply weeding principles to my everyday life. If you don’t wear it/use it/even remember why you own it anymore, it’s time for it to go.

I decided to apply this to my TBR list. It was famously (because I wouldn't shut up about it) around 1400 items long, and I was reading books that I’d added to it close to two years ago. All of this wasn’t so bad, except I was doing more plowing than reading, just getting through this book so I could get to some of the good stuff further down the list. The list should be made up of good stuff, I decided.

So I got drastic. Using LibraryThing’s collections option, I tossed everything into a collection called “Weeding” and then went through it, looking for stuff that made me go, “Oh, but I WANT to read that!”

Any book I recognized right away, remembered the premise, and remembered who had recommended it to me got saved. Any book by auto-read authors like Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, Philip Reeve, Scott Westerfeld, etc, got saved. Anything else, I just left in the weeding collection. The few things where the title, the cover looked promising or I vaguely remembered a little about it, I studied and hemmed and hawed and clicked through to Amazon to read the premise and a few of the professional reviews. And you know what? About half the time, I left it in the weeding collection. Some of them were very good books, I’m sure, but it wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to devote several hours of my life to. I know about it, and from a professional standpoint, that’s enough.

I did one pass through my list. This took several days, during snatched moments in the middle of other things. Then a second pass, slower, more focused, and with no distractions, to catch the things that I might have missed the first time. There weren’t many. Then I gritted my teeth, screwed up my courage, and deleted everything that was left.

In all, I cut my list down by 572 books. I discarded trendy books that fell off the radar two days after publication. I discarded Very Weighty Tomes that won Very Weighty Awards, very nice for them I’m sure but I just don’t wanna read it. I discarded books whose inclusion on my reading list made me wonder what I’d been smoking.

A huge amount were picture books. I don’t feel so bad about that, because as the children’s librarian, I see every picture book that comes in, and I keep a stack of the more interesting ones at my desk for when I have the time to read them. (I hear that derisive laughter from the ALSC committee. It happens. Sometimes.)

I look at my list now and it looks like a list of books I actually want to read. Which is really the whole point.


How often do you weed your piles or your reading list?

2 comments:

AmandaRose said...

Good idea. My TBR stack is at about 50 books right now. It's a little out of hand. Might be time to host a giveaway!

Amy said...

What a great idea! You make a great point when you mention that sometimes simply knowing about a book from a professional standpoint is enough. Sometimes I get so caught up in adding much publicized books to my list, even though I may not be 100% interested in them...