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?


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...