We are all aware of the pressure on libraries to find space to store their ever-growing collections. The New York Public Library owns about 7 million books for which shelf space has obviously got to be found. Their recent plans for rejigging the structure of their whole operation, closing the main branch opposite their landmark headquarters building, excavating space under Bryant Park, and moving lots of books to remote storage in New Jersey, have been shelved as a result of public protest. The idea behind Google’s big scanning project (now of course stalled) was that libraries would discard the hard copy books after digitizing them. You can obviously fit more e-books onto a shelf than those old baggy monsters. Clearly as more and more books get published every year, no library can keep them all out front and available. Lots get wasted or sold off. One wonders how the Copyright Deposit Libraries in the U.K. manage with this problem. Have they really got one copy of every book published since 1662 when the deposit requirement was instituted?  Probably yes, with all sorts of remote warehousing going on. I see from the Agency for Legal Deposit site that since 2013 digital books have been required too, though whether as alternatives to print or in addition I’m not sure — Looks like alternative might be a negotiable option.

 The Millions brings us this fascinating extract from The Shelf by Phyllis Rose (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) showing us the criteria used by librarians to CREW (Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding) their collections. Apparently they assess eight factors: the number of years since the last copyright date; the number of years since the book was last borrowed; and the MUSTIE factors:  M = misleading (is the information out of date?), U = ugly (is it in bad condition?), S = superseded (is there a newer edition or better account?), T = trivial, I = irrelevant (to your patrons), and E = elsewhere (can you get it easily via e.g. library loan?). Describing the process in the Wesleyan University Library the author tells us of the list of books they had to consider for deaccessioning, 6% of their holdings,  “The scale of the operation is stupefying. I looked at the list for the Library of Congress category PR—English literature—and there were nine thousand entries. This means that nine thousand books, published before 1990, had been checked out only two times or less since 1996 and not at all since 2003.”  She suggests that the individual can combat the weeding process by simply borrowing a book — that’d obviously prevent it getting into the CREW process. Unfortunately now that everything’s electronic, it’s no longer so obvious which book is in most need of an outing.

The extract from The Shelf concludes with a discussion of on-line reviews.