Some Special Considerations... By Dewey Section

by May Alice Evans Handy


Start here: it's easy 'cause it's tiny. Books about libraries don't go out much. Books that provide answers to trivia questions can be saved 10 years or more. Retain books on computers only it they deal with models and software that are still used by your patrons. A five year-old book on computers is old! I have never encountered a patron with an interest in the history of computers.


Psychology changes more than parapsychology. Freud's Interpretation of Dreams is a classic - hold on to it and probably any other books on dreams, handwriting analysis, palm-reading, ESP. Retain something on the Salem witchcraft trials. Books on friendship, shyness, death can be saved for several years. However, books on bioethics become dated very quickly. You should have something recent on the debate on animal rights.


Religion and mythology change very little. Balance here is more important than age: you need more than one version of the Bible, for example, and you need to represent the mythology of several cultures. Virginia Hamilton's In the Beginning is a modern classic, and every few years someone will ask for Plato's Republic. A fairly recent and complete book on the religions of the world is a necessity. Many libraries have duplicates of mythology books that have gathered great quantities of dust. One Edith Hamilton is certainly enough if not one is using it!


Here we have one of the most difficult sections--perhaps because it is so far-ranging. Be ruthless. Interpretations of the social sciences change quickly. Newer interpretations with glossy covers are fun and many are available as high quality paperbacks. When social studies teachers stop using their old favorites, throw out the duplicate copies and keep a single copy for a year or two. Teachers can be fickle. The can also help you determine which ones are the true classics if social science is not your field.

Check to see if you have something short and to the point on how to study and how to take tests.

Two areas, costumes and folklore, can be kept for 20 or more years as long as appearance is still holding up and you have some demand.

Books on holidays are tough. Even the old dogs do go out sometimes. Save the information on each major holiday until you can update it. Holly, Reindeer and Colored Lights has gained status as a contemporary classic by now. Do you have anything on non Christian religious holidays? Refer to the standard catalogs if you are in trouble in the 390's.


A small section where dust accumulates. Same something on signing for the deaf. And ask yourself if Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian are represented along with French, German and Spanish. Don't toss everything on word origins. For ESL students, a picture dictionary is appropriate.


A big and important section that's often neglected. I believe we need to be part of the push for improved science education. ... Updating is essential here- keeping a wish list as you weed will help keep you positive.

Be ruthless in the 510's. Before computerization I threw out most of our math books and no one ever noticed... Some experts recommend discarding science books after five years. In practice, it's more like ten. Even then you'll probably denude your shelves. Classics? Charles Darwin and Rachel Carson come to mind. Anecdotal books can do. Books dealing with astronomy, ecology and endangered species date very fast. Earth sciences can be retained a bit longer. When you're looking at the dinosaur books, remember we live in the post-Jurassic Park era. You want to get rid of the titles where the information is just plain wrong, but you don't have time to read everything... so .. . skim and scan: check the table of contents for a chapter about the future and scan it. If it's ridiculous, the book goes. 580S and 590s can be saved for a few more years for basic information. The birds of North America really haven't changed that much, except that some new books on birds and animals are so stunning you'll want them. Do throw out dusty and musty books and broken bindings.


Again, be ruthless. Not only does technology change almost hourly but books about fads, such as CB radios and Wankel engines, will stay on your shelves forever if you don't take action.

If you notice books on sex have been stolen, you're doing a good job in the 612s and 616s. Replace them with paperbacks. Same goes for the titles on suicide. Warning: any book on sexually transmitted diseases that does not mention AIDS is downright dangerous--get rid of it!

David Macaulay's How Things Work is well on its way to becoming a classic whether you shelve it here or in reference.

Books on gardening and pets can be saved up to 15 years, as can a title or two on beekeeping, tracking, knot tying and other "how-to" books if they are fairly attractive and still circulate.

Books on occupations date fairly quickly, not just in terms of salary, but in terms of technical skills needed and gender issues. Look at them closely, and when in doubt, throw them out. I prefer to buy reference books on occupations that cover a lot of ground and are updated often. Cookbooks? Represent ethnic foods, low-fat and microwave cooking. Get rid of old cookbooks no one signs out. Keep something on babysitting and something up-to-date on consumerism, personal organization, and resume writing. Save a title on the history of tools.

Everything You Can Find in Hardware Stores is a book I bought on a whim and it's used! Throw out books over ten years old unless their circulation surprises you.


Art books become musty and dusty - although "Just too beautiful to throw out" is commonly heard from this section. If you can't bear to throw them out, you've got to find a way to get them used. Balance what you have in your reference section with what you decide to keep on the shelves.

I've never had to week how-to draw books or anything resembling a comic book - they disappear on their own.

Fads come a go quickly in arts and crafts. Save one representative title on such fads as macrame, rug-hooking, stained-glass, decoupage. The rest can go.

Music is a lot like art. There are new editions of those classics. Do you have a good history or rock and roll? Of jazz? Do you have something on rap, Asian music, country, electronic music? My sports section is showing its age., but affording new books, most of which are for recreational reading, is a problem. Every now and then I go through the sports section of a good bookstore to get ideas for new purchases--mostly paperback.


These are difficult because literature does not date -- or does it? Dusty and musty and yellowed pages are the key words here. There are lots of new books on how to write. Kathy Henderson's Market Guide for Young Writers (Shoe Tress Press. Crozet, Virginia), which is revised often, might be hound here.

Short stories seem to date faster than poetry. I saved most of our poetry... You might want to get someone else to check your poetry books against standard poetry indexes from your reference section. It is gratifying to be able to find the particular poem a teacher is searching for, and those old anthologies are where you'll find lots of them.

Collections of plays should reflect your curriculum. If there is no drama curriculum, try to get a few classics in anthologies, a collection of two or three Shakespeare, a couple new collections of humorous monologues and short plays for teens, and check the rest for dust.


We started with the 000's because they were small and easy. Now, we've reached the section that tests the best of us. I was a history major in college -- I suffer in the 900's! Books on countries need to be replaced at least every ten years, and Germany, South Africa, eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union demand new materials immediately! Don't fall into the trap of saying, "well, the history part is still okay." Make this a budget priority.

Biographies (in 921) are touch because teachers want biographies of the presidents, world leaders, inventors, artists and scientists, while kids like to read about people they've heard of -- sports stars and rock musicians. You are the lucky one who gets to strike a balance! If every title staring at you from the Biography Section is about a white male, you've got work to do. Try to have long and short books, fun and serious ones. Einstein, Helen Keller, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart, Hitler, Jackie Robinson seem to be perennially popular. If yours are all checked out, buy more.

929'S should contain a couple of standard works on first names and surnames and genealogy. A recent book on flags of the world could be here or in reference.

929'S should contain a couple of standard works on first names and surnames and genealogy. A recent book on flags of the world could be here or in reference.

World history still revolves around wars and all that killing continues to fascinate young and old alike. You'll probably keep a lot of older titles on World War II because they're used. I pulled some duplicates and some that were falling apart. The Spanish-American and the Korean Wars are often neglected. Have something fairly new on each, such as the books by Albert Marrin. Interest in the Vietnam War has waned somewhat. Check the shelves for balance and for recent historical interpretation.

Books on Native Americans are tough ones. I assure you that if you haven't weeded here for some time you have some unsavory stereotypes lurking on your shelves -- but who has time to read all these titles and who can bear to throw out those that are beautifully illustrated? Skim and scan and spot check and get rid of what seems offensive. (This goes for the Mayans and South American Indians, too.) Do you have something on urban Indians, Native American women, on tribes native to your state and region?

Recent immigrant groups should be represented along with those good old Europeans.

There's a plethora of new books on the Civil War, some including new perspectives---books about the 54th Colored Infantry comes to mind. Many of the new books are gorgeous and expensive. Buy judiciously.

From time to time a few students will become convinced they've been born in the wrong decade and will wax nostalgic for the 1960s and the 70s. Keep a couple good titles for them.

While weeding the 900's be aware of the need to save some primary sources, and if necessary think of ways to help your history teachers use them with their classes. Also try to acquaint yourself with the big name historians to help you identify the classics in American history.

It's the end of the Dewey line. Time to tackle Reference, Fiction, Audiovisual Materials and, regrettably, time to remind you that any computer software more than five years old is suspect. You probably need a new globe, too.