Saturday, April 08, 2006


One of my new duties at the Claremont Branch is maintaining the collection of uncataloged paperbacks. This is a purely browsing collection. When I say "uncataloged" I mean you cannot find any of these books by looking them up in the library catalog. Should you check one out glance at the check-out receipt; the receipt will not list the title of the book, rather it will say your "paperback" is due on such-and-such a date.

Four years ago when I was putting in 15-20 hours a week at North Branch substituting for someone who, I think, was off on a several month sabbatical, I watched over the paperbacks for awhile. The mass market paperbacks, the thrillers and not-quite-formula romances and family dramas circulated like mad. I remember one lady bringing back a grocery bag filled with slightly cigarette scented paperbacks she'd plowed through. The trade paperbacks had half the circs.

I've been weeding the paperback collection at Claremont, getting rid of the stain-rumpled, underlined, and cover-loosened copies. At North I recall the turnover was pretty ruthless. The paperback had a year. At the end of the year you discarded it. If the condition was decent the book was put on the Friends of the Library sale shelf to sell for a big quarter. I don't know if it's just that it's been no one's steady duty but the paperbacks at Claremont have been allowed to age. One I deleted this week has been doing its rounds since 1995. I've deleted none whose tour has been so brief as one year.

Now that the RFID tag makes it harder to remove a book from the collection in presentable condition (y'gotta tear the thing out) most of the deleted books have their covers yanked off and get dumped in recycle. I'm realizing doing this where patrons can see the process is likely not a good idea. It's been convenient to do it at the Info Desk when things are slow but ... very public. Some people get tetchy over seeing books thrown in the trash.

Judging by my review of the circulation statistics of the books I discard I'd say the users of the Claremont Branch have different reading habits than those who visit the North Branch. A trade paperback (which tends to be more literature-like) would have twice the circs of a mass market paperback. When I was scanning the donations for candidates to add to the collection I'd been looking with most interest at the mass markets. I'll shift my attention.

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