January 24, 2022

Illinois: “Library Director Says Mistake Was Made in Book ‘Weeding'”

UPDATE July 10, 2013 Urbana library to seek early separation with director (via News-Gazette.com)

The Urbana Free Library board announced on Tuesday night that it would seek early separation with Library Director Deb Lissak.

Board President Chris Scherer said it was a mutual agreement between the board and Lissak, and they would announce an end date for Lissak’s employment while they work out the details and search for a replacement in the coming weeks. Lissak and board members declined further comment.

From The News-Gazette (Champaign, IL):

A shipment of books removed from the shelves of the Urbana Free Library only a week earlier is making its way back to the library.

Headed back to Urbana will be art books, gardening books, pet books and some cookbooks that were taken off the shelves as a result of what has been described as a “misstep” by the library’s director.


Thousands of books were removed recently as part of a process libraries call “weeding,” the periodic removal from the shelves of books of a certain age or books that haven’t been checked out for a while.

But more than expected were removed, and the sight of the bare shelves on the second floor of the library caused local patrons and the librarian community to be all atwitter.

Due to a miscommunication or misunderstanding, [Library Director Debra] Lissak said, “for some reason they took a larger portion out than I intended. I didn’t know that was happening. I’m not sure how that miscommunication occurred. … I feel terrible,” she said. Lissak intended for staff to review a list of adult nonfiction books older than 10 years old for possible culling, but what ended up happening is many of those books got pulled.


“When you start the (weeding) project, you have to have a baseline. The baseline for consideration for weeding was 10 years. It was not just willy-nilly get rid of everything,” [Library Board President Mary Ellen] Farrell said.

Lissak said she had prepared a spreadsheet listing the library’s adult nonfiction books with those older than 10 years old highlighted in red. Earlier this spring, the adult department had about 66,000 nonfiction books, and about half of the collection is over 10 years old, she said.

She asked staff to review the list and mark any that they wanted to keep, she said. Instead, what appeared to happen is staff started a blanket removal of books 10 years or older in the adult nonfiction shelves, according to Lissak.

The books were shipped to Better World Books and the most recent shipment will be returned to the library. How many titles will actually be returned is TBD.

Much more in the Complete Article

See Also: “Do you ever read any of the books you [weed]?” (via Smile Politely)
This article was written by Tracy Nectoux, a former Urbana Library employee and includes primary documents, photos, and notes from a library meeting.

Hat Tip: LISNews

See Also: An Apology From the Urbana Free Library (via UFL Web Site)
Written by UFL Executive Director, Deborah Lissak.


June 17: Smile Politely has posted a new report by Tracy Nectoux about weeding at the Urbana Free Library.
See: “Miscommunication, or mismanagement?

June 18:  Report From Urbana City Council Meeting: “Urbana library ‘misstep’ upsets patrons”

June 19:  Urbana Library Board Will Hold Special Session Tonight (via The News-Gazette)

June 19: Urbana Free Library patrons express concern over size and speed of book culling

June 20: “Public officials do not have the luxury of lying” (via Smile Politely)

June 20: Fate of Urbana library director still unknown

There has been a call from the community for director Deb Lissak to be removed after she oversaw the removal of thousands of books. Most of those books will be returned, with Lissack saying that the situation was a misunderstanding among staff.

And now, library board Vice President Chris Scherer said the board has asked Lissak for more information on what happened. The board hopes to have that information in time for a meeting on July 2nd.

Latest Updates

Update June 22: Urbana library meeting allegedly violated law twice (via The News-Gazette)

Updated June 25: Forthright library board is a must (via The News Gazette)
This is an editorial from the newspaper.

Updated June 28: Library Board president: Much ‘Weeding’ Defensible, Some Resumed (via The News Gazette)

Video of Emergency Library Board Meeting
Recorded June 20, 2013

Video streaming by Ustream

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.