I posted this comment to her:
Weeding is always hard. What I tell new staff and patrons who are concerned about us getting rid of books is that we are a local public library, not a repository of every book ever written. We would love to keep every book, but we have limited shelf space. Our goal is to have the best general interest collection we can. We need to be efficient and effective with the space we have.
Of course, some local libraries do have special areas of interest. For example, my library's town (Berwyn, IL) is famous for its bungalow style homes, so we have a large collection on information about these homes. We keep pretty much everything on the topic.
I think focusing on the efficient and effective collection issue is key. You need a Hoover biography, but just one and hopefully there is consensus on the best one. Also, remind people that ILL is a fabulous thing and they can have that musty old Hoover bio when or if they want it through World Cat; or, they are welcome to take the discarded copy right now.
Good Luck with the weeding project. And, thanks for bringing up the topic. Weeding is a huge part of collection development; it is just not as fun as buying new books.
Without a solid commitment to weeding, all of our collection development work is for naught. It is hard for patrons and librarians to watch books being "thrown away," but we cannot keep everything; we have neither the space nor the money. That is the mission of The Library of Congress and they can barely keep up.
In order to make our collections useful to public library patrons, the professional librarians need to continually take the pulse of their collections, asses its strengths and weaknesses, make decisions about replacing worn materials, add where there are holes, and delete where necessary.
There is not enough about weeding in library school collection development classes. In fact, I go out of my way to add it to my customer service class in the RA course I teach. The students are always appreciative of my frank comments about the necessity of weeing, and continuously tell me that the 10 minutes I spend talking about it to them, is the most they hear about weeding in library school.
Weeding is a customer service. Having your shelves neat, in order, and as efficient and effective as possible, helps users. They should not have to, for example, wade through 10 out of date biographies to find the 2 that are the best and most respected. They should be able to come into the library knowing that the collection in front of them (or at least the catalog is the book is checked out) represents the most current and best received materials of general interest. That is, considering population size, budget and spacing. But this is why libraries hire professionally trained librarians instead of just general book lovers.
Each time I go out and do a RA training at other libraries, I also mention weeding. No matter the topic I am talking on, weeding has a place in the discussion.
Thanks to The Library Chick for venting her frustrations and bringing up this touchy topic. And, to end on a fun note, you can always turn all of your withdrawn books into a new RA desk.