The library I work at moved into its new building in 2009. When I started, I was told the YA collection hadn’t been weeded since the move (maybe even before the move). At this point, the stacks are packed since we’ve continued to acquire in that time. But more than simply being packed, the collection is in desperate need for attention in the form of weeding.
You also have to consider your books in a series a little bit differently: if book two of a four book series is missing or hasn’t moved in years, do you remove just that volume or do you remove the entire series? What about if you cannot replace a book that you discover is missing because it has gone out of print?
For what it’s worth, my observations are based on 200 titles I marked as ones I’d like to weed based on paper credentials alone, so circulation dates and numbers. It doesn’t mean they’ll be the only ones weeded and it doesn’t mean that I’ll weed them all when I get to the shelves. But 200 is the number for numerical state.
Page counts ranged from 93, 95, and 96 total (those were published in 2004, 2006, and 2001 respectively) to 553 and 574 (2006 and 2009 respectively). It’s worth noting that looking at my data, the average publication date of my to-weed titles in 2006, and I would maybe go as far as to argument that 2006 and 2007 were sort of turning point years for YA. It didn’t quite take off yet, but that date seems to be a tipping point not just in my collection but for YA more broadly.
2006 is when Twilight was first published.
Looking at my own information was tougher because many books don’t outright tell you the main character’s age. I ended up going through catalog records of my titles, and I pulled ages out where I could find them. So, the average age I pulled comes from 158 titles, as opposed to the 200 I looked at.
My average age was 14.95 — or I’ll go ahead and say 15 to make it even. It’s worth noting that we do have a juvenile section, so our teen area is for readers 12 and older; some libraries have middle grade with their YA, but we do not. To me, that 15 average seems somewhat young, though I feel like the age range I found was more telling: some of the YA novels featured characters ages 10, 11, and 12 (all published before 2006, except for two which featured 12 year olds, published in 2007 and 2010). In 2003, there was a pair of books featuring a 19-year-old that were part of a series, and the same went for a pair of books published in 2008. There were twenty books published with main characters who were 17 or older, but the bulk hovered in the 13, 14, and 15 year old range.
Besides suggesting to me that main characters have aged a bit (again, I have no conclusive proof except in my own reading experience), it also suggests to me that books with older protagonists do better in my collection than those with younger ones.
Remember when these were hot commodities?
I used to have to replace them all the time when I began working in libraries in 2009. But in 2013? These haven’t moved in two or three years.
I’ve also found that books spun in the light of those above titles also haven’t moved a whole lot. It breaks my heart, but the books Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe series has not been checked out in a couple of years, either. The first book has a billed status in our catalog, meaning it never came back to us, but seeing that no one has asked about it and the other books haven’t moved in a couple of years, I feel okay in saying they aren’t likely to see a resurgence.
We don’t own her second series and as far as I know, we haven’t been asked to acquire it, either.
We have the Pendragon series in YA, and though it used to be quite popular, it seems to not have gone out in a while. Part of me wonders if the covers are doing a disservice to the series now, as they look really young compared to the fantasy that’s been published in more recent years (book one published in 2002, for the record).
The other book — which is part of a series — doesn’t surprise me at all in its lack of circulation. Rave New World, along with a number of other similar titles, weren’t necessarily novels for reading, but instead, they were written and marketed as books for readers to prepare for the SAT. Remember that trend a few years ago? Teens aren’t dumb. They know this is meant to be medicine for them, rather than something they pick up for enjoyment. The publication dates on the SAT novels in my library are 2004, 2005, and 2006 respectively, and there is a grand total of zero circulations combined. Those things are leaving.
Although it’s not a trend, I found that in our collection, books which are Biblical retellings or stories based on any Bible elements don’t circulate. I plan on keeping a few of them by well-known authors, but the majority are not paying their rent on our shelf space.
Then there are times when the cover doesn’t make sense, as is the case in this one:
Pretty innocuous all things considered. But the book features a male main character who takes a job at an advertising agency. It seems like a little bit of a disconnect from the jacket copy — though I haven’t read it to see where the girl might play in. The book circulated really well when it was in its heyday, but it hasn’t moved since 2010 in my collection. I have no idea if the cover has anything to do with that but it was one that made me stop.
Here’s a look at a handful of the covers that made me pause and give a lot of consideration to whether they’re worth holding on to or they should be let go.
All of these look really dated and really juvenile. While The Exchange Student fits the story, it’s still bizarre.
These are a few more of the “too dated” or “too young” covers in our collection. I think, too, Visiting Miss Caples looks like it’s not a YA book at all.
I could post a lot more of the covers, but for me, the cover consideration aspect of weeding happens less when I’m working on paper with numbers and much more when I’m in the stacks physically looking at the books. If anything, though, it’s clear that cover design in YA has not only become a means of really selling a book to readers, but it also has gotten much, much better. I’d even argue that many YA cover models now look like they’re 20-somethings, rather than teens. I think that might be an appeal factor, too.
I’ve stumbled upon some real gems in my weeding, too, which is one of the biggest reasons I love this part of collection development in libraries. Sure, many of these books haven’t circulated in a few years, and sure, many may end up off my shelf, but sometimes you find books in your collection that you know you can sell on a display or in a reader’s guide or in a book talk. They have themes or topics that are still timely and relevant and would make excellent read alikes to well-known and popular titles.
My biggest and favorite find so far was this one, with what might be one of my favorite covers in a long time because it fits the content so perfectly:
Sixteen-year-old Kayla, a ballet dancer with very large breasts, and her sister Paterson, an artist, are both helped and hindered by classmates as they confront sexism, conformity, and censorship at their high school for the arts while still managing to maintain their sense of humor. (via Worldcat).
This sounds awesome.
The weeding process is a lengthy one, without any hard-and-fast rules, but it’s one that is so satisfying not only from the collection-level standpoint, but from the reader’s advisory standpoint, as well. With shelves that aren’t filled with books that aren’t moving, it’s easier for readers to discover books they want to read, and it’s easier for people who are reader’s advisors to know their collections well. In some cases, what should be weeded and doesn’t get weeded gives an opportunity to get those under-read gems to shine on shelf and in reader’s advisory tools.