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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Making the Most of the Space You Have

Look at your stuff

Do a ruthless clear-out of stuff. It’s like your closet. If you haven’t used it in 3-5 years, get rid of it. If you have chairs that are uncomfortable or worn, or if you have a stash of broken furniture and equipment, get rid of them. If you have a technology graveyard, get rid of it. If you have old collections of stuff that were donated at some point in the mists of time, at least try to find out what the conditions of the donation were and if there’s another organization in town (like a historical museum) that would be a better home.

One caveat: if you don’t know already, check with your town. Most have rules and procedures for disposing of public property; unless it’s truly broken and worthless, you can’t just put it in the dumpster. And if it’s truly broken and worthless, you shouldn’t have it.

If you, like this library, have a collection of old birds stuffed with arsenic, get rid of them

Room full of tchotchkes

If you have an inherited collection of tchotchkes, find out what the terms of the donation were. If you can, get rid of them

About collections


A special note about library collections. This is the most difficult topic in public libraries today. How big should your collection be?

This is where your priorities come in. If you don’t have a collection development policy that spells out priorities and retention rates, talk to your trustees about writing and adopting one. This also helps when you are confronted with a patron who's unhappy about collection weeding.


Do you have encyclopedias and reference books that are never used? How many years of magazine backfiles should you retain? What kind of cooperative borrowing systems do you have? Do you really need every Nora Roberts and Stephen King book? Tailor your collection to your community. Policies are a way to broadcast your message and your vision. Work with your trustees – it should be a Board-approved policy, and it should be reviewed regularly – not a dead document!