Friday, October 11, 2019 - 5:30pm

As the caretakers of the books on our shelves, we take a thoughtful and deliberate approach to caring for the collection. One of the ways we do that is by carefully assessing each item on our shelves on an ongoing basis. This necessary, if unglamorous, task takes place in all public libraries. In fact, collection management is an important part of a public librarian’s education. 

“Maintaining the library’s collection is like maintaining a garden,” said Technical Services Manager Lori Schlernitzauer. “The library needs to weed out irrelevant or seriously damaged materials to make room for the never-ending supply of newer materials, which helps to sustain a healthy library collection.”

As part of the practice of caring for our collection, our librarians review each item in the collection based on a number of different factors, including the item’s content, condition, and circulation. If an item is found to contain incorrect or outdated information, it may be replaced with an updated version. This happens more often than you may expect. For example, when Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 1996, books that contained the out-of-date information had to be replaced.

But sometimes, a book is removed from the collection because it has been loved so much that it needs to be replaced with a new copy. Our staff runs a report to identify those items that are in “heavy rotation.” The items are examined by our librarians determine whether they are still in good condition, or need to be replaced with a new copy. 

So what happens to the books that are removed from the collection? There is a misconception that these books are discarded or thrown out, which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The first stop is for a book to be offered to the Friends Bookshop in the library’s lobby. Our library is fortunate to have a partnership with the Friends of the Northbrook Public Library, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that supports the library’s mission with sales from its bookshop. These books will go on to find new homes and continue to enrich other lives, long after they have left the library. 

Books that are not selected for the Friends bookshop have an opportunity to find a new home in other ways. For example, children’s books are sent to Bernie’s Book Bank, a local non-profit organization that distributes quality new and gently used books to at-risk children throughout the Chicago area. 

Our outreach librarians also regularly deliver large print materials to area residential facilities, and visit the homes of our homebound patrons to drop off books, movies, and music for them to enjoy.

You will also find our books around Northbrook in the three Little Free Libraries we manage, as well as the train station, the play space in Northbrook Court, and various local summer camps. 

Books that do not find their way to any of these locations are given to Discover Books, an  online bookseller who helps to “rehome” the books. Discover Books first attempts to sell or donate the books, but when a book cannot find a new home, they will recycle it, which gives it the chance to be turned into the paper for the next bestseller you read. 

We don’t take the removal of books and materials from are shelves lightly, but some of the benefits to maintaining a healthy, thriving collection, may surprise you. For example, when we keep our collection in good order, our circulation goes up! When the shelves are more appealing and contain thoughtfully chosen, relevant titles, it makes it easier for patrons to browse and find the items they want. 

Occasionally, you may find empty shelves, and you may wonder why. One of the many great things about a public library is that each one reflects the community it serves. And as the needs and interests of our community change, we also evolve to meet those needs. 

For example, within the past few years, we have experienced a demand for more study rooms. Our five existing study rooms are heavily used by people of all ages, including students studying for a test, community groups, and professionals. They are almost always booked.

In response, we are currently making space for more study spaces on the southwest corner on the second floor, near the Administration office. We look forward to having the new study rooms ready for patrons to use by next spring. 

If you have books you would like help find a new home, we invite you to drop them off at the Circulation desk. The next Black Friday Sale at the Friends Bookshop will be held on Friday, November 29 and Saturday, November 30, and all proceeds will go to support the Friends and the library.