Building a Book Tree or, How and Why Libraries Weed Their Collections

book tree3

This December, we decided to bring a little festive cheer to the grey lobby of the Killam Memorial Library by building a holiday tree out of old bound journals which had previously been withdrawn from the collection. Since then, we’ve had questions about how we decide to remove (or “weed”) items from the collection, a necessary practice in every library but not one that any librarian undertakes lightly.

The bound journal volumes we used to build the tree in the Killam lobby were originally withdrawn from the Novanet catalogue and moved into basement storage seven years ago when the library underwent an A to Z move. To improve access and simplify the Killam Library’s physical organization, thousands of volumes were shifted so that books and journals could be arranged in call number order instead of having the science and humanities collections stored on different floors. At that time, some of our librarians identified runs of journals that were duplicated by electronic versions on stable platforms such as JSTOR and in archival packages purchased to provide perpetual access to the content. We created room for new purchases by moving duplicated content into storage.

Before the journals went into storage, they were offered to faculty and members of the local community. Volumes people expressed an interest in were set aside for them to pick up, but many of these bound journals remained with us. Since 2007–2008, the Dal Libraries, in consultation with Dal’s Office of Sustainability, have explored environmentally sound ways of handling the remainder of these now unwanted volumes. Some were used to insulate the Blockhouse School on the South Shore.

Our basement storage is currently full with a combination of withdrawn materials and holdings we want to keep. We have no offsite storage facilities to store extra volumes. We are working with our Novanet partners to explore the development of an off-site repository, similar to the Downsview Repository operated by the University of Toronto:  Even if we do develop a repository, there will only be room for material which is unique, worth preserving, and not available electronically.

As part of this summer’s move of the Music collection to the first floor of the Killam, we have shifted some items into the basement including government documents, some microfilm, all microfiche and microcards, and some print indices. As well, the basement storage contains rarely used print journals that are not available electronically: these can be retrieved by placing a request at the Killam Library Service Point. In anticipation of the upcoming move of the Kellogg Health Sciences Library, some older health sciences materials are also stored in the Killam’s basement.

Periodically, we are asked why we haven’t donated these bound journals to organizations that collect books for countries or regions in need. Our old bound journals used to build the book tree do not meet the criteria of what many of these organizations need. It costs 50 cents to ship just one book to Africa, so these organizations must be specific about what they can accept. For example, the organization Books for Africa lists the following criteria for acceptable donated items:

  • popular fiction and nonfiction reading books (soft and hard cover).
  • books that are 15 years old or newer.
  • primary, secondary, and college textbooks (soft and hard cover) with a 1998 or newer publish date.
  • reference books such as encyclopedias and dictionaries published in 2003 or later.
  • medical, nursing, IT, and law books with a 1998 or newer publish date.
  • some Bibles or religious books, please place them in a box separate from other donations and mark the box as “Religious texts.” Bibles are sent only when requested by African recipients.

While the Dal Libraries no longer need the particular volumes we used in our book tree, we would be happy to see them go to new homes if people want them. Community members are welcome to join us on January 5 to help take down the tree and redistribute the volumes (the books themselves weren’t harmed in the building of the tree, they have simply been stacked on top of one another). If no one is interested in these volumes, we will pack them up again and save them to build another tree next year.

For more information about how and why libraries weed their collections, blogger Joe Hardenbrook, who regularly blogs about libraries, technology, and teaching, has an excellent list on his Mr. Library Dude blog. Mr. Hardenbrook works as a reference and instruction librarian at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin where he manages reference and instructional services, teaches information literacy sessions, and serves as a liaison to the education, psychology, and diversity programs. Here’s what he has to say about why academic libraries weed:

Why Do We Weed?

  • To remove books that are not being used
  • To remove books with outdated or obsolete information/philosophies (that have no historical use)
  • To identify books that are damaged or in poor condition
  • To identify gaps in the collection and make new purchases
  • To align the collection with the university’s goals, mission, and curriculum
  • Limited space for the collection

It boils down to this: Weeding is simply the selection process in reverse. Librarians, using their knowledge, institutional interests, and professional tools, decide which books to purchase. We use that same skill set to decide what books to withdraw.

Libraries are Not Warehouses
For most academic libraries, our mission is not to collect the whole of human knowledge. We have limited space, limited resources. We are not a warehouse for books–a warehouse is a storage facility. Books are for using–not for sitting on a shelf for years on end.

Finally, for more information on the subject of weeding, here are some excellent links on the topic:

Some Library Services Are Down

affected services

We are currently experiencing problems with some of our library services. We are investigating the issue and will resolve it as soon as possible.

Affected services are:

Please check for updates. We apologize for the inconvenience.

UPDATE, 11:55 a.m.: The issues have been resolved. Thanks for your patience.




WorldCat Local is down, please use Novanet instead


worldcat localNOTICE: WorldCat Local is down, please use Novanet instead.

If you need assistance,  please contact one of the Dal Libraries for assistance:

We apologize for the inconvenience.

UPDATE, 1:59 p.m.: WorldCat Local is up and running again.

Help Us Build a Book Tree

This year, we’re building a Christmas tree for the Killam Library lobby out of old bound journals. It’s a way to creatively reuse journals that have been replaced with electronic resources.

Join us on Monday, December 1 starting at noon to help us build the tree. We’ll have Christmas music and cookies, so take a break from studying or work to join in the fun. We’ll keep building until the tree is finished, so stop by the lobby any time that afternoon (but not too late) to give us a hand.

book tree

We hope to end up with something like this.

Making Sense of Helen Creighton’s Sound Recordings

Helen Creighton was a Canadian folklorist who collected songs, stories, and myths, mostly from her home province of Nova Scotia. And Creighton Barrett (name is purely a coincidence) is the Digital Archivist for the Dalhousie University Archives who has been researching Helen Creighton’s work since he was a music student at Acadia University in 2004.

This year, Creighton received three grants to support his current research project, entitled: Investigation of Sponsorship, Copyright, and Intellectual Property Issues Surrounding Helen Creighton’s Folk Song Recordings. In early 2014, he received a $1,000 Collaborative Research and Innovation Grant from the Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL) and a $2,000 travel grant from the Rockefeller Archive Center Grant-in-Aid program. Creighton spent the travel grant on a trip to Sleepy Hollow, New York, to visit the Rockefeller Archive Center. In October 2014, he was awarded a $3,500 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Research Development Fund grant through Dalhousie University. Most of this grant will be combined with the CAUL grant to hire a research assistant.

Creighton’s project is attempting to answer several research questions about the copyright and intellectual property status of folk song recordings made by Helen Creighton, but it is rooted in his broader interests in the archiving of folklore and cultural heritage. “My research interests involve the documentation and preservation of intangible cultural heritage. Academic researchers are typically leading these efforts, which often lead to the creation of vast multimedia archives with complex ethical, legal, financial, and technological obligations for the academic libraries and archives that end up taking custodianship of these materials. Intangible cultural heritage has also emerged as a key component of education, tourism, and cultural initiatives, yet many of the most pertinent resources are distributed across multiple institutions, poorly described, and mired in questions about copyright, intellectual property, evolving organizational priorities, financial challenges, etc.,” says Creighton.

Digital archivist and Helen Creighton researcher, Creighton Barrett.

Digital archivist and Helen Creighton researcher, Creighton Barrett.

“I want to pull together all the information about Helen Creighton’s collection and find a way for the archives that hold her recordings to work together,” says Creighton. “There are copies of the same songs held in various archives, and it’s difficult to tell where the original recording is located,” says Creighton. Pieces of Helen Creighton’s collection can be found in the Nova Scotia Archives, Mount Allison University, Université Laval, the Canadian Museum of History, and in the Library of Congress in the United States.

On March 18, 2015, Creighton will give a free public lecture to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, entitled: American sponsorship of Helen Creighton’s folk song collecting in Nova Scotia during the Second World War.

More information about this public lecture will be available in the coming months.


ACEnet Research Fellowships

ACEnet is once again be offering research fellowships to students at their member universities.  These awards are designed to further research projects that utilize ACEnet’s advanced research computing resources.

Advanced Research Computing (ARC) involves a cluster of computers working together to solve scientific, engineering, business, or data analysis problems that are too large or complex for any single computer. Used by researchers, governments, and industry, advanced computing can remove years from timelines for research or product innovation and makes new types of analysis and problem solving possible.

The fellowship program is available to graduate and undergraduate students in any discipline. Graduate students will be eligible for up to $20,000 over two years and undergraduate students up to $5,000 for a minimum 400-hour work term. Supervisors are required for both types of fellowships. These must be regular, full-time, tenured, or tenure-track faculty at one of the ACEnet member institutions.

ACEnet will only accept nominations from designated contacts at each institution. (Dalhousie is one of the institutions.)

Nominations will not be accepted from either individual faculty members or students.

Interested parties must contact the university representatives listed in the information package for internal application deadlines and details. ACEnet Research Fellowship Program – Information Package

General inquiries can be directed to



Issues Accessing Online Library Resources

We have discovered that we are having major issues with access to online library resources this morning and we are currently working to find a solution. We don’t yet know when things will be back to normal;  please check for updates.

We apologize for the disruption.

UPDATE at 11:25 a.m.: These issues should now be resolved.


Scent-free Campaign in the Dalhousie Libraries

no scents fo blog

The Dalhousie Libraries Health & Wellness Committee  are launching a scent free campaign for the Libraries. The purpose of this campaign is to educate staff and library users about the harmful effects of scented products on individuals with scent sensitivities.

The University supports the many students and employees who report that they are harmed when they are exposed to scents which are present in many scented personal care products. Scents in perfume, cologne, hairspray, aftershave, and even some soap and fabric softeners cause serious illness in people who are sensitive to these chemicals. To provide an environment which supports teaching and learning, Dalhousie asks students, staff, faculty, and visitors to refrain from using such scented products while at the University.

Please note that scent free at Dalhousie is a program, not a policy. The fundamental difference between a program and a policy is that a program is meant to educate people about something whereas a policy must be followed. For example, no smoking is a policy that must be followed and enforced while scent free is a program that educates people about potential illnesses and sensitivities regarding soaps, deodorants, etc. to fellow staff, faculty, and students.

no scents info for blog 2

New posters reminding people to refrain from wearing and using scented products will be posted in the libraries. New educational bookmarks will also be placed in books at the time of checkout at the Service Point in each library.

For more information about the scent free program at Dalhousie and for advice on how to handle scent sensitive situations, check out:

We appreciate your assistance in keeping the Dalhousie Libraries and Dalhousie, scent free.


Extended Hours at the Dal Libraries

Tis the season of midterms, papers, and exams. Fear not, the Dal Libraries are here for you, providing you with longer hours to linger in the library with your favourite study buddy or night owl.

For more information about the Night Owl program at the Killam Library, see here.

Killam Memorial Library

Effective October 26–November 14:

Sundays: 10 a.m.–3 a.m.*
Mondays-Thursdays**: 8 a.m.–3 am.
Fridays: 8 a.m.–midnight
Saturdays: 10 a.m.–midnight

Effective November 15–December 14:

Sundays–Thursdays: 8 a.m.–3 am.
Fridays: 8 a.m.–midnight
Saturdays: 8 a.m.–midnight

*Access to the Killam Library from midnight to 3 a.m. is for Dalhousie and King’s students only. Students must have their student ID with them to get in. Regular library services are not offered during this time, students will have access to the South Learning Commons or the atrium.
**Exception: Remembrance Day, Tuesday, November 11. We will be open from 1–9 p.m. 

MacRae Library

Effective November 17–December 10:

Monday–Friday: 8:30 a.m.–midnight
Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.–midnight

Sexton Design & Technology Library

Effective November 28–December 14:

Monday–Friday: 8 a.m.–midnight
Saturday:  10 a.m.–midnight
Sunday: 10 a.m.–midnight

Sir James Dunn Law Library

Effective November 28–December 18:

Monday–Wednesday: 8 a.m.–10:45 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m.–10:45 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m.–10:45 p.m.
Saturday: noon–10:45 p.m.
Sunday: noon–10:45 p.m.

W. K. Kellogg Health Sciences Library

Effective October 31–December 13:

Monday–Friday**: 7:30 a.m.*–11 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

* Staff available at 8:00
**Exception: Remembrance Day, Tuesday, November 11. We will be open from 10 a.m.–11 p.m. 


Remembrance Day Hours at the Dal Libraries

remembrance day hours1

Image source: “Carpet of Poppies” by Tina Phillips


Remembrance Day is the day for all Canadians to recognize the contribution our veterans have made and to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Canada.

Remembrance Day is always on November 11. The Dal Libraries will be observing holiday hours on Tuesday, November 11.

Killam Memorial Library
1–9 p.m.

MacRae Library
1–10:30 p.m.

Sexton Design & Technology Library
10 a.m.–6 p.m.

W. K. Kellogg Health Sciences Library
10 a.m.–11 p.m.

Sir James Dunn Law Library
9 a.m.–10:45 p.m.