Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Learned While Weeding Books at Home

When we got married, my husband told me he would never complain about me buying books. He believed (as I did) that you could never have too many books. He has been very good about it for 22+ years. He still doesn't say much but we both really had no idea how many books a person could accumulate in a lifetime. So, it was time to weed. I knew this but avoided it until I found this article via Twitter. It helped me get some motivation. I do not enjoy weeding books at all, but they seem to be taking over our house. Where will I put the new purchases of 2010 if there is no room?
One of the biggest issues for me is that all of the books from my classroom now live at home. In my current job as K-5 librarian, I had to bring my classroom library home. After teaching a variety of grades from K-5 over the last 20+ years, I could pretty much run a school in my basement. So many great books and they all serve some different purpose. Some are great for beginning readers. Some are perfect as mentor texts for writing. Others work when trying to explain complex math concepts to kids. It is hard to find even one book that I feel okay about weeding but I went book by book and am ready to take several huge boxes to the resale shop.

-Weeding at home is much more difficult than weeding in the school library. I can see the books more objectively in the library at school. There are not as many stories and histories tied to those. Home weeding is a little more difficult since each book has a little story or memory to go with it.
-Children's books will be given to school--we have a book swap at our school run by a parent in the building. Every few weeks, there is a table set up in the cafeteria where kids can swap book. Many times, we have so many donations that each child in the school can take a book. It is fun for the kids and a great way to pass children's books along. It is great fun to watch them choosing books at the table too. So thoughtful about their choices!
-much of the nonfiction is obsolete--easier to get rid of
-I went through phases of book purchasing and it shows on my bookshelves. When art in the classroom was a big push in elementaries, I purchased several biographies about artists. When kids in a class got hooked on an author, I picked up several books by that author.
-I have a great poetry collection and I LOVE IT!
-I need to organize the books so I can find them.....
-I tried to get rid of duplicates but for some books, I couldn't bear to part with one--you can never have too many copies of Silly Sally, can you?
-Some of the books that could easily be weeded were books that were "the book" for some student--the book that turned them into a reader. It is funny how a book can sit on a shelf in a classroom for years and then one child finds it and it changes them. So many of the books on my shelves have stories like that. That seems to be the problem with weeding as a teacher--you never know which book will hook a child in the future or which book will help a child through a hard time. Every book has potential for some child in the future.
-There are books I hope my own children will love as much as I did. I have shelves of books that are too much part of who I am to get rid of. They are my favorite shelves. Just looking at the spines makes me happy! (Walk Two Moons, Crossing to Safety, Living Out Loud...)
-My next-read stack has turned into a next-read room. I was feeling pretty confident that if there was a flu epidemic and we were stuck in the house for days, I would have enough reading. But there are just too many books I'll never get to. I figure someone else should enjoy them so I hesitantly weeded out several books that have made it too far down the next-read pile.
-I got rid of several self-help books. I seem to have quite the collection (I came across 3 copies of THIN THIGHS in 30 DAYS from the early 90s. I haven't used the book since the early 90s but I cannot bring myself to weed any of the 3 copies...) The potential is always there with a copy of the book in every room, right?
-Professional books were harder to weed than I thought. So much thinking comes from the learning I've done from professional reading. Every book has changed my thinking in some way. And I go back to them, even the older ones, often. So I didn't get rid of much there.
-Nonfiction for children has gotten so much better in the last decade. So many of the books that I kept from my classrooms just aren't the quality of the books that are being published now. So much more like an encyclopedia and far less engaging/reader friendly.
-I can't part with any books by Charlotte Zolotow, Anna Quindlen, Lois Lowy and others who are on my list of favorites.

We all weeded some books--piled them up and held a family contest. How many books were we weeding? Everyone got one guess and the winner won $5. My youngest daughter won. Her guess was 213. In reality, we weeded close to 300 books. About 200 are going to the resale store and the 100 children's books are going to the Book Swap.

It was a hard process but you should see all the shelf space we have! So, the good news is that we have lots of space to put the new books we'll buy in 2010!


  1. A little "weeding" is always good for the mind. Perhaps it's time for me to send off the education textbooks I bought, but never used in college. Or the cookbooks that were given for wedding presents, but are hidden in the cupboard above the refrigerator. it for another day...this summer!

  2. Anonymous9:53 AM

    I feel your pain!
    As we prepare to move, the realization that I probably won't be going back to a classroom anytime soon, and the sheer number of new books I've accumulated since mid November of 2009, has had me weeding as well!
    I have found it can be a very painful process.
    I also had my classroom library at home in the basement. Last year I donated half of it to a new teacher in our district (happened to be my daughter's teacher:) As our home has been on the market this fall (and in preparation for a move), I have taken a box or two a week from my basement to the different buildings (elementary, intermediate, and middle) for teachers to take to add to their own classroom libraries. Even though I have come to a good place in my head about getting those books back into kids' hands (and not just gathering dust in my basement), somedays when I walk by the pile in the teacher workroom and see a personal favorite languishing and not having been already snapped up, my heart does sink a little. Don't they realize what a gem they just passed up? To counteract that feeling, I've also taken to selecting certain books from the boxes to deliver to teachers who I know have certain interests in let's say historical fiction or fantasy. To see their face light up (and their students) when I walk in with a armload of books does my heart good.
    My daughter has dubbed me the book fairy, which I have to say I like better then when the school secretary nicknamed me the book slut last year!

  3. I'm in awe of this project. I'm also with Shelly -- I don't think I could tackle this until summer. But I bet if I was pretty ruthless, I would create a great deal of bookshelf space.

    Kudos to you for doing this!

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  5. Blogger Patrick A. Allen said...

    Wow... you're a better person than I am, I hate weeding... especially books! Must be that new librarian blood that is flowing through your veins!

  6. What a great exercise. I am learning to be a better weeder. It's fun to find places to give the books I no longer want/need. I'm keeping most of the kids books for my grandchildren, however.

  7. Great post. Every 6 mos I fo through my books. The ones I won't be reading and don't mean a ton to me (like expensive, signed, gifts, etc...) I take to my high school class where the kids can borrow them. I have a probably a thousand there. Also, there are some old poetry books I have purchased from used book stores or garage sales that mean little to me. That poetry is now online, so if I need a reference then I can look it up. I do have a ton of text books from my doctoral work and I know how much money I spent so can't part with them. I gotta go through them again soon.

  8. I Can Not Do It. I pull one or two books, then second-guess myself, and put them back. I am running out of shelf space, and I need to weed. That would make a good blog post title: Need to Weed.


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