January 25, 2016

Weeding Your Collection: Nonfiction

Are you ready to dive into some weeding?
Today we are talking about NONFICTION--i.e. true, factual books.
Weed, useful herb, or vibrant wildflower? You decide!
I often find it much easier to be objective about nonfiction, so that’s why I chose it as a starting point. It can be a challenge, though, because nonfiction books crop up in a lot of places outside of the bookshelf. Just stick to one shelf or one area at a time, and don’t get overwhelmed.
Take all the books in that section off the shelf and put them on a table or on the floor. Take one book at a time and decide if it’s a keeper or not.

 Questions to ask yourself for nonfiction:


1.       Is the information outdated or incorrect?
photo from morguefile.com
Space books that list Pluto as a planet come to mind here, as do older dinosaur books, books about technology, geography books or atlases, and books with medical information. Take a good hard look at any nonfiction older than 5 years. Out-of-date info can be harmful or amusing, but it’s rarely helpful.
a. Are there other reasons to keep it beyond the actual information?

So sure, that space book may be outdated, but it has amazing Hubble telescope photos. Great, keep it, but just be aware of its limitations. (Your child may not want to base a school report on it.) Or slice out the photos, and get rid of the rest. (GASP! Yes, I just advocated cutting up a book. Does that revoke my librarian license?)

2.       Is this book your best source for the information?
In other words, if you needed to know this information would you just google it, or do you always hunt down the book? Books that fall into this category: old college textbooks, dictionaries, thesauruses, cookbooks, phone books, repair manuals,etc.
3.       Is it at the right level for the kids who are reading it?
Juvenile nonfiction books especially have quite a range. Some are so long and packed with info that they’re on more of a middle school level and my 2nd grader struggles to get through them, even when he’s interested in the subject matter.
4.       Are you (or your child) still interested in the topic, or
photo from morguefile.com

This applies to hobby and crafting-type books, in particular. If your interest has waned, or that particular book doesn’t give you the inspiration you thought it would, send it on its way. There will probably be someone else out there who will appreciate it.

If it came with pieces (Klutz books and others) do you still have them? Or alternately, are you sick and tired of keeping track of them?! [Believe me, I feel your pain!]

5.       Church-related books: lesson manuals, scriptures, etc.

All I have to say here: if you’ve switched to digital, don’t feel guilty about ditching the paper copy! I know a lot of us have formed attachments to our paper scriptures, particularly if we’ve been studying from them for a number of years. That being said, you may not need individual copies for every member of the family any more. 

And that collection of Ensign* magazines you've been hanging onto since college? Honey, they're all online, keyword searchable. As much as it hurts, put them in the recycle bin, close the lid gently, and walk away. It's okay. Really.

6.       Old Encyclopedia sets

Unless you are dearly attached to them for sentimental reasons, or you’re saving them to make that trendy end-table--they’ve got to go! Our library wouldn’t even take donated sets that were more than 5 years old. They cover such a broad range of information, they go out of date fast.

Digital encyclopedias are awesome: they don’t take up an entire shelf on your bookcase, they are updated regularly, they are keyword searchable, and best of all—your friendly public library likely has subscriptions to many of them, which you can access for FREE with your library card. Just a thought.

So, how did you do?
Did you run up against some that you were surprisingly reluctant to let go of? What criteria would you add for the decision-making process? Have you ever made furniture out of old books?

Stay tuned: next time we're going to take on the picture books--with suggestions to get help from your kids!
 *The Ensign is a monthly magazine for adults, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


  1. The nonfiction area I ended up being the most ruthless with was cookbooks. I used to have a very nice collection of cookbooks that I never looked at. I pretty much only use recipes I find online. So I threw out all my cookbooks, and I really haven't missed them once. (Church books are still a sore spot for us. I know they're all online, but it feels disrespectful somehow to throw them out.)

    1. I know what you mean about Church books! I just sent a whole stack to Goodwill and I still feel a little guilty about it.
      We also usually print off new recipes rather than go to the cookbooks, so I probably need to pare down ours even more, as well.

  2. Mike teaches in Elder's Quorum so he likes the physical copy for that, but we've given up most of our past manuals (although not old scriptures--those are like journals to me). If I really feel guilty about it, then I take them to DI. They'll get into the right hands then, right?