In 2007 Buskerud County Library Service decided to focus on weeding and library collection development. The people engaged in this work were soon dubbed the Buskerud bandits. By becoming involved in practical and creative change in the libraries in Buskerud, the county library service wishes to foster a common practice of weeding, collection development and reorganising the physical library space. The starting point for the practical work is a ‘weeding stunt’ and physical reorganisation of the library. Fewer books on the shelves provide more room for changes to the actual library space.
Many librarians find it difficult to ‘abandon’ books in decent physical shape. The lack of weeding results in low turnover rates and creates public areas dominated by shelves rather than space for browsing, reading and other in-house activities.When we weed we make sure that we maintain a collection that is vital, relevant, and useful. The Buskerud bandits base their weeding on the American manual: Crew: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries (www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/pubs/crew). This has been in use for over 30 years and is being translated into Norwegian by Jannicke Røgler.
Communities of practice
The theory of communities of practice is rooted in the work of Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave, done at the beginning of the 1990s on situated learning. They contended that learning should be seen in relation to the context in which it occurs. These learning communities were termed Communities of Practice (CoP). The term CoP denotes informal learning cooperative groups as a basis for skills development.Wenger defines Communities of Practice as: “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
Case Lier Upper Secondary School Before the summer holiday started, school librarian Birgithe Schumann- Olsen called for both ideas and practical efforts to contribute to the renewal of the library. The Buskerud bandits turned out with the objective of renewing as much as possible in the course of one day.
The library at Lier Upper Secondary School is relatively new and has an area of 180 square metres. It is situated in an annexe, which links two buildings together. The library occupies a central position on the second floor between the staff room and the classrooms. This ensures good relationships between staff and pupils. The library is very attractive with a lot of natural light coming from www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/pubs/crew the windows on both long sides of the building. The end panels on several of the bookshelves are decorated with old photos of Lier, which gives the library a distinctive character.
What we did
• Removed bookshelves totalling 20 metres of shelf space
• Discarded 497 books, both fiction and non-fiction
• Moved bookshelves to create more space for reading and meeting areas
• Placed three bookshelves at an angle to break up the space and provide new sight lines within the library
• Moved the PC worktables up to the windows to provide more space for free movement of users through the library
Reflections on the process It is actually possible to create a new library in one day. Creative work is hard, process- oriented, intensive and fun.We started the day quite literally by turning over a new leaf and starting afresh. Ideas and practical solutions followed each other in close succession. This type of change requires a very open, secure and broad-minded librarian, who can work out solutions together with those who do not work in the library on a daily basis. It is a distinct advantage that those who participate have concrete work experience from different types of library. In our case we had experience from professional, public, county and school libraries. Diverse backgrounds provide a broader discussion and experience basis, which gives greater weight to the arguments, while the solutions are based on solid practical experience. All the participants were enthusiastic and positive. Being attentive and showing respect for the opinions of others in turn created a culture characterised by humour, curiosity, generosity and openness. These are useful qualities in working with change.
One goal to strive towards would be to gather a group of weeders and interior designers, who have a particular interest in the subject. This group of people, by all means call them a community of practice, will be able to help other libraries. One thing the Buskerud bandits have discovered is that it is often easier to weed books in libraries other than one’s own. There will be less of a personal relationship to the collection and one can more easily give up one’s ‘darlings’. However it is necessary to have good local knowledge of the library users and the collections.
Reactions from school librarian, teachers and pupils to the extreme makeover
The school librarian has received nothing but positive reactions to the changes. She hears comments from the teachers that the reorganisation has provided more space, more light and a greater feeling of openness. It was also said that the photos on the end panels came more into their own, now that the shelves are standing at an angle.
Nobody has noticed that 500 books have gone, but then no one has asked for any of these discarded books either. More space between the shelves has given more room to display books and has reduced the need to reshuffle the collection. The fact that a whole shelf section was removed has increased the openness. Even if people do not notice it has gone, they recognize the effect its removal has produced.
It was on the librarian’s own initiative that the extreme makeover took place, but immediate superiors were informed ahead of time. Afterwards she received very positive feedback from both her immediate superior and the head teacher. The librarian referred to photos and articles on the whole process. The work attracted comments both orally and on Face book by the Head.
Sharing the experience
The results of the stunts are documented in various forms, as pictures on Flickr (flickr.com/photos/buskfyb/collections/72157623334641144), as film on vimeo (vimeo.com/12968916), as reports on our web pages and a blog, as well as in the news media. By showing examples of what we do, we increase the focus on collections and the physical library space.
Crammed on the shelves?
Taking “Awfullibrarybooks” as a model, I have started a blog “Trangtihylla” (Norwegian for: crammed on the shelves) to present good candidates for weeding. By focusing on outdated books in a humorous way we have succeeded in drawing many library staff into the discussion. The blog receives many comments and is relatively well visited. This is one of many ways to create reflection and discussion around the topic of discarding books.
The Buskerud bandits are one example of change happening over time. Longterm priorities have the greatest effect on change.We have found that the concept of communities of practice can lead to useful and effective methods for developing skills.
The Buskerud bandits’ work and resulting success has become an export commodity. Three other counties have had or will have whole day seminars on weeding and collection development where the undersigned will be lecturing.
Research fellow at Oslo University College
and Library advisor at Buskerud county library
Jannicke.rogler AT bfk.no
Translated by Akasie språktjenester AS