Belk Library is currently undergoing a comprehensive collections review as part of a larger project to create more space in the library.
All books that have not been checked out in the last 20 years will each be thoroughly analyzed and reviewed by a team of faculty to determine whether the library should keep it or not.
Joyce Ogburn, the dean of the library, said roughly 16,000 print books are added to the library’s collection each year, which equals about 350 linear feet of shelving, and they need to open up space to accommodate.
“We’re running out of room for collections because this building is 10 years old now and we keep buying books,” Ogburn said.
Ogburn said there are 80,000 books up for review, but that doesn’t mean that the library is getting rid of that many books. A team of library staff as well as professors will look at each book individually and determine whether it should be kept.
“That’s just a starting point,” Ogburn said. “We’re starting with what hasn’t circulated in 20 years because we feel that’s a good cutoff point. Other libraries have done similar projects and sometimes less than 10 percent get selected, and in one case, a third of the books looked at were cut, so we’re not sure how many will end up being recycled.”
Books on the list will be retained if they’re determined to have importance in their field or historical significance.
“We’re keenly looking for books that need to be retained no matter what,” said Leslie Farison, the associate dean of the library. “And it’s very discipline-specific. In English and literature, where there are old classics, we’re very concerned that we keep these things.”
Ogburn also said that in some cases, books might be recycled because they have too many copies.
“Maybe when we first got a book it was in-demand, so we had 10 copies of it,” Ogburn said, “But now we only need one copy in good condition.”
Farison was quick to dispel the rumor that the books chosen for removal will be burned.
“The rumor that we were going to burn the books started going around over the summer, and it was hard for us to combat the rumor when nobody’s even on campus,” Farison said. “We don’t really know how it started, but some people were just trying to create problems.”
Appalachian State is legally not allowed to donate the books, since the books are the property of the state. And to sell the books would require just as much work as it takes to recycle them.
“We could sell the books, but it’d be just as much, if not more work than this review is,” Ogburn said. “Plus, what these books are, they probably won’t have much of a market.”
The review will not only open up space for new books, but will also open up space in the library for more seating.
“During finals weeks, and even some other times, you see students sitting on the floor in the aisles because there’s not enough seating,” Ogburn said. “We’ve talked to students and heard their opinions, and the number one complaint is, ‘We need more seating.’”
Belk Library is also going to be implementing a number of other renovations to optimize space. The rotunda in the middle of the first floor will become the checkout desk, and they are still deciding what the current checkout desk will become. The technology checkout desk, the writing center and the Idea Factory will all be moved into larger rooms.
Ogburn said the process of removing books isn’t an easy one, but that it must be done for the library to function.
“Books are emotional, we’re all attached to them,” Ogburn said. “But as our collections continue to grow, it’s becoming harder and harder to accommodate everybody.”