Sanibel Public Library Optimizes Collection 

Sanibel Public Library is taking steps to optimize the collection for library users in the community. After an audit of the library’s circulation data, shelf space, and collection contents, several thousand noncirculating, worn, or outdated items are being removed in order to make room for better titles and services. This is part of the latest round of “weeding,” a regular process that every library undergoes in order to keep the collection fresh. Libraries need to continuously remove books that are collecting dust instead of being checked out.

“What makes this round significant is that many of the unused books will be sent to Better World Books, an organization that collects and sells books,” says Duane E. Shaffer, who is head of collection development for the Library. Begun in summer of 2016, every one of the Library’s 50,000+ books are being evaluated for its timeliness, value, accuracy, popularity, and other factors for keeping it on shelves or in storage.

“The goal is to create more space, appeal, and usefulness for Library users. The top priority is the community’s needs and expectations,” according to the Library’s Executive Director Margaret Mohundro. Each year the Library adds more than 5,500 items, and those items need to go from the “new’ section to the regular shelves. Space is at a premium.

The Sanibel Public Library ranks #1 in Florida for its availability of books, magazines, movies, and music available per capita to the public; and ranks #2 statewide in checkouts per capita.

“This is a community who reads, and is proud of their library and the services it provides, and who enthusiastically supports it; naturally we want to sustain that reading culture,” said Mohundro. Even with access through the Library to thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, streaming movies and music on iPads and other devices, books still rule, according to the American Library Association and Pew Research.

There are several steps to determine which materials are kept. The Library staff runs reports on what is and is not being checked out. Then staff compares those materials to guidelines in the national Public Library Core Collection recommendations. Mohundro said, “We take into consideration the community and its interests; as well as general trends, topics, and authors that are popular right now.” Even if a book hasn’t been checked out in five years or more, it doesn’t automatically get “weeded’ from the Library’s core collection. Reference Librarian Candy Heise said, “certain classics and books are not removed – can you imagine a library without Shakespeare, Twain, or Dickens?”

Then, the Library takes into consideration the community. “Beyond popular fiction the top interests include travel, lifestyle, history, nature, Florida-related materials, and the arts,” said Wendy Lambrix, Library Circulation Manager. “We strive for a well-rounded collection and emphasize those subject areas of particular interest to this community,” she added.

Mohundro said the final step is key, “what I call ‘gut-check’ – looking at each title for its potential to see a resurgence in popularity in the next year, so reviewers need to be up on trends and cultural literacy.” For example, the Poldark series is suddenly very popular on PBS, and the Library has those episodes on DVD. People watch the series and then decide they want to read the books. While the Poldark books may not have been checked out in a while, the Library will keep them on the shelves for the anticipated future demand. “Every single book is reviewed by at least two professional staff members – reference, circulation, youth librarian, and/or the Library Director. Books not kept on the shelves go into the book sale room first, then to the semi-annual “Dollar-a-Bag” book sale at the Library.

Following those steps, the Library works with Better World Books for reusing and recycling books. “We do not throw books away. We selected Better World Books because the organization brings new life to used books, ensuring each book continues to make an impact,” said Mohundro.

Better World Books collects and donates or sells new and used books online matching each purchase with a donation, book for book, and with each sale generating funds for literacy initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. Organizations that get the donated reused books into people’s hands quickly include Books for Africa, Feed the Children, and 50 other channels.

Since its founding in 2003, World Books has raised more than $23 million for libraries and literacy, donated 21 million books; reused or recycled over 250 million books and achieved 54,000 tons of carbon offsets through carbon balanced shipping.


Shaffer said that the environmental metrics for Sanibel Public Library alone are impressive, too, more than 1,196 books have been sold or donated by Better World Books. More than 5,000 have been recycled. Recycling reports show recycling a book yields 97% of the book as reusable fiber. Better World Books reports that Sanibel Public Library has saved the equivalent of 95 trees and more than 40,000 gallons of water so far.


Sanibel Public Library cards are available to all residents of Sanibel and Lee County, Florida, at no charge. Visitor library cards are available for a $10 annual fee.

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