When The Shelves Get MUSTIE

Andrew Sullivan —  May 17 2014 @ 2:31pm

In an excerpt from The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading, Phyllis Rose explains how librarians decide which books to cull from their collections. Perhaps not surprisingly, it involves a lot of acronyms:

CREW stands for Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding, and the [industry-standard] manual uses “crew” as a transitive verb, so one can talk about a library’s “crewing” its collection. It means weeding but doesn’t sound so harsh. At the heart of the CREW method is a formula consisting of three factors – the number of years since the last copyright, the number of years since the book was last checked out, and a collection of six negative factors given the acronym MUSTIE, to help decide if a book has outlived its usefulness. M. Is it Misleading or inaccurate? Is its information, as so quickly happens with medical and legal texts or travel books, for example, outdated? U. Is it Ugly? Worn beyond repair? S. Has it been Superseded by a new edition or a better account of the subject? T. Is it Trivial, of no discernible literary or scientific merit? I. Is it Irrelevant to the needs and interests of the community the library serves? E. Can it be found Elsewhere, through interlibrary loan or on the Web?

She adds, “People who feel strongly about retaining books in libraries have a simple way to combat the removal of treasured volumes”:

Since every system of elimination is based, no matter what they say, on circulation counts, the number of years that have elapsed since a book was last checked out, or the number of times it has been checked out overall, if you feel strongly about a book, you should go to every library you have access to and check out the volume you care about. Take it home awhile. Read it or don’t. Keep it beside you as you read the same book on a Kindle, Nook, or iPad. Let it breathe the air of your home, and then take it back to the library, knowing you have fought the guerrilla war for physical books. This was the spirit in which I checked out the third book in Etienne Leroux’s Welgevonden trilogy with no intention of reading it.