Dimond book dump halted; materials saved in storage

By Ken Johnson
On May 6, 2014
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The process of integrating the biological sciences annex library into Dimond Library has involved weeding through the collection, for both the biological sciences library and the main collection in Dimond Library. 

On April 21, there was a recycling bin located on the west side of Dimond Library by the loading docks. As it was being filled with weeded materials from Dimond, it caused uproar from students and faculty. Students and faculty climbed into the recycling bin and saved some of the materials. 

"As time became too close, I think we thought more importantly about making sure that we weren't disruptive over these next two weeks for students on campus, and perhaps we weren't thinking as globally as we ought to have been," said Annie Donahue, interim dean of the UNH Library.

The library doesn't know the number of materials that were saved by students and professors from the recycling bin, Donahue said.

The weeding process was stopped due to faculty concerns, Valerie Harper, IT librarian and project manager, said. "We stopped because of the faculty concerns that they had no voice in what was being weeded - that their expertise in their academic areas were not being taken into consideration," Harper said.

The goal was to complete the weeding by the time that finals started, so that the process would not inconvenience students, Donahue said. All the materials are to be moved into Dimond so that the library will be ready for the fall semester. 

"[The] time became very crunched a little too quickly so in order to try to meet a deadline to stop the work by this week, we tried to push the work through a little quicker than perhaps was wise," Donahue said. "I'm taking full responsibility for everything."

Harper said that librarians are trained to do collection management. And according to Donahue, the library faculty is well qualified to do the selection and de-selection process for library materials. 

Tenured faculty member librarians at The University of New Hampshire have to hold a second master's degree - in addition to their master's in library science - which allows them to have personal knowledge of subjects. 

While the library faculty generally works with a liaison within the faculty departments, Donahue said that in this instance, they did not.

"That didn't happen because of the time crunch, and again in hindsight probably we should have said we won't even start until after finals," Donahue said.

Donahue said that it is possible that if the weeding had waited until after finals, a different time crunch could have occurred, since many faculty and students go away for the summer.

"Our whole focus was to make it as [least] disruptive to students as possible," Donahue said.

When the weeding process was halted, the recycling bin was secured with tarp and rope to make it weather-tight. From there, Harper said it was moved with the materials in to a storage location on campus. 

The books have now been removed from the recycling bin and placed on shelves in a storage space where they are currently located, Donahue said. The special collections librarian has reviewed all the materials that were in the recycling bin to determine their condition. 

"I've been advised that they are in good condition," Donahue said. 

Going forward, lists of materials will most likely be given to department liaisons and asked for feedback from the faculty, Donahue said. The faculty will be given time to go over the materials and give their thoughts before final decisions are made.

"Based on their feedback and based on own knowledge, we'll make the best decisions," Donahue said.

Before the lists of reviewed materials can be given to the department liaisons, a draft collection policy or best practice guidelines, needs to be drafted. The draft will determine whether books are added or removed from the collection, Donahue said. The library faculty is working to create the policy.

Best practice guidelines have been used in the past. According to Donahue, out-of-date materials, materials that have been superseded and items that are damaged, have been examined for replacement or for the trash.

Also, in general for academic libraries, program-and course-related materials that have been discontinued could be thrown away.  

When books are used within the library and not checked out, students are encouraged to leave them instead of putting them back where they found them so the library can log the use of the book. "That's an important statistic for us to keep," Donahue said. 

"Discarding is a normal practice for libraries," Donahue said. "It is a critical part of keeping the collection appropriately current and useful, and space is not unlimited."

Going forward, one of the options that is being considered for materials is looking for additional storage space if any is available on campus, Donahue said.

For the materials that will be discarded, alternatives to just recycling - like Trash 2 Treasure - are being looked into as well, Donahue said.

Signs went up in Dimond Library on Friday asking students to return books that were saved from the recycling bin on April 21. As of the current time, no books have been returned to Dimond, Donahue said. However, as of now, an art history student has promised to return the materials she saved. Students can bring back materials that were saved from the recycling bin to the circulation desk, which is now open 24/7. No questions will be asked of students returning saved materials.

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