How my research question evolved

How has my research question evolved since the beginning?

Originally I had said that I wanted to examine the ways in which people’s biases played a part in acquisitions at the library. I believe that more broadly I was interested in collection development as a whole. Over time I realized that collection development was far too broad (even for a pretend research project) so I decided to narrow it down to weeding.


I find weeding interesting because the responsibility may fall to just a few people in any given library. This puts a lot of the responsibility for shaping the collection in the hands of just a few people. I am coming from a place where I believe weeding to be a practice which is good for a library- not a position that many would contest, but not the only position to be sure. More importantly, perhaps, I come from a background in Women and Gender studies. I am going to let my feminist flag fly by stating that my entire motivation for this project to begin with was to help facilitate the inclusion of women and other marginalized groups in library collection holdings. In the library where I work, the two people who are in charge of weeding are both older white men. I have no reason to believe that they are particularly biased, but it is something I’ve noted none the less (down with the patriarchy! Haha).


Really, only one question is nagging at my soul after all of my research:

Stanley J. Slote is pretty much wrote the book on weeding. In his 1997 book Weeding Library Collections he states that two completely qualified people will choose different books to weed given the opportunity. This was pretty much the entire basis for my research. However, the more I think about it, I wonder if there really is a “right” and a “wrong?” Assuming, of course, there is no obvious biases (racism, sexism, etc.) present in the weeding process?


Having done a fair bit of research about administering surveys, my method changed somewhat from my original plan. Initially, I wanted to start off with an intake interview (face-to-face) and then follow up with a web survey. However, after learning about how people often lie during interviews, offering the interviewer more socially acceptable answer, I decided I should stick to the web interview for the intake interview as well, since this will be the interview where I ask all of the controversial questions, like “who did you vote for in the last election?” Interviewees are apparently more likely to tell the truth online.


Anyway, I just wanted to thank all of you for the feedback that has been provided the past twelve/thirteen weeks. I am glad that we did this blog instead of another paper!




Slote, S. (1997). Weeding Library Collections. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited Inc.


1 Comment

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One response to “How my research question evolved

  1. Hey Portia,

    First of all I want to mention how interesting I think your research topic is, I never would have thought about the underlying issues of weeding. Thank you for providing that book as your resource, I will have to check it out some time (no pun intended). I was wondering what other factors did you investigate as the library’s criteria for withdrawing books?

    I work at a small public library and our biggest push for weeding is space concerns with overflowing collections, we usually withdraw books if their circulation number is low, if they are damaged, if there are duplicate copies and/or if they appear to be very old (publication date is from along time ago, pages are yellowing). It’s usually a combination of all these factors that influence what get’s withdrawn, although now I should be adding the bias of the individual weeding as well.

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