State of the Library! Collection Maintenance and Culling

Today I’m going to discuss the unpopular topic of collection maintenance. How, when, and why does my library remove board games from our collection.

Space is always limited in a library. While I hope nontraditional collections in the library have an opportunity to grow and expand, I understand that eventually it’ll butt up against available space and other collections. When that happens we have to start culling. Your standard collection development policy may help with this. My original collection development policy (you can see a bit of it in my post on CAH) didn’t originally include information on how I would weed and deaccession items from the board game collection because I never expected it to grow to the size it is. However, here we are.

Nontraditional collections tend to fade over time due to lack of interest and reduced investment. At first, when grant money is plentiful and everything is shiny and new the collection is maintained. But three years later you end up with 50+ dinged up cake pans choking up the 600s because no-one wants them or knows what to do with them. No-one is willing to develop the collection to the current need. To avoid this and keep the circulating board game collection new and relevant, I allocate around $100 a month from my general materials budget on purchasing new board games. This is just enough to keep new material floating in, allowing me to experiment on new and emerging game styles, add duplicates of popular games, and stay open to patron requests. All without blowing out what little space I have.

My dedicated space is limited to about 25 games on a gridwork mobile display originally used for VHS tapes. With half of my collection of 50 games circulating at any one time, it means that I’m coming close to my first culling of non-performing items. In order to do this, I determine a “rating score” for each game and check the circulation statistics quarterly. Any game that is new (defined by less than six months in circulation) is exempt from culling. They are still finding their audience. They are safe.

Others, however, have the arbitrary metric of averaging one circulation a month to remain relevant in the eyes of the law. Each game has a lending period of one week with one renewal, so this reflects the pace of how our board game collection moves. A longer circulation period of three weeks would not use the same metric. With my collection, one circ a month ensures that majority of the games are performing fine, a small percentage is performing amazingly well (we’ll look at those later) and some are just not making it. If they are averaging less than one circulation a for two straight quarters, they are removed from the collection. I need to move material off the of the shelf to make room for more material and I never want an empty shelf where the board game collection is housed. It ends up being a strange titration. Having only popular games which are constantly circulating ends up with an empty display.

So, an average performing game will have a score of somewhere between 1 and 2. Less than 1 is under-performing (and maybe up for culling) while over 2 is doing great and is barely on the shelf (which helps me determine where the community’s gaming interest lies).

Sorry Barbara, Chinese Checkers is out.

This quarter I have a few games up for culling.

  1. Small World (.88) – area control, fantasy themed game from Days of Wonder
  2. Happy Pigs (.8) – Farming game from Iello
  3. Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama (.75) – Retheme of the Roll and Write game Avenue from Indie Boards and Cards
  4. Smash Up (.5) – crappy card game from AEG (I have opinions)
  5. Codenames: Disney Edition (.4) – Disney version of the popular word game Codenames

Now that I see which games aren’t circulating well. I also take into consideration individual plays at our board game nights so a game that doesn’t circulate but gets good in-house play will likely remain. For each of these titles, I ask a few questions. First, does the game do something unique within the scope of our current collection development policies. A good example is Kokoro which is a “roll and write” game and the only roll and write game we have in our collection. Since removing this game would remove an entire (arguably, popular) mechanism from the collection, I kept it. However, if I purchase other roll and writes in the future, and Kokoro continues to under-perform, I will likely remove it.

Does the game duplicate mechanisms or themes already held within the collection? Is it a an exact duplicate of another game or within the same family of games (i.e. Ticket to Ride family of games) information already held here or elsewhere in another format? A good example of this is Codenames: Disney Edition. Codenames is, not surprisingly, very popular and circulates well. I included Codenames: Disney Edition thinking that families with younger children would be interested. However, that has not materialized. Since the Codenames: Disney Edition is within the same family of games (Codenames and Codenames: Marvel are already in the collection) and we have other word games (Wordsy, Scrabble, and Bananagrams) which circulate well, Codenames: Disney Edition is out.

Was the item donated? How was it donated? If the game was from a publisher donation or donation from the general public, I’ll remove. If it was donated by members of our gaming group or through our “Adopt A Game” program, then it will be retained. Happy Pigs was an anonymously donated game and is under-performing. It doesn’t really do anything new or add anything to the collection so it will be removed.

Would the item be useful at a different location? I’m part of a four library township system. If a game would potentially be beneficial for another library, I’ll ask if they would be interested in it.

What is the physical condition of the game? If a popular game is getting well loved, I may deaccession it and then retain it for public gaming nights or for spare parts and order a replacement copy. If the game is getting worn and isn’t performing then I am likely to remove it entirely. I am very superficial and appearance of the collection is important. Small World is not circulating well at .88 and I would retain it except for the fact that the box is getting torn, split at the sides, and the area control mechanism is duplicated in other games.

So there we go…I’ll hold on to Kokoro but the rest are going away and making room for new games.

But what were the high performers? Oh, I’m glad you asked. By the way, Ticket to Ride and Codenames were both moved to another branch which is why you don’t see them.

  1. Monza (1.9) – a racing game for kids from Haba.
  2. Clank! (2) – deck-building dungeon crawling press your luck from Renegade Games.
  3. Pandemic (2.25) – classic Cooperative game from Z-man Games (currently missing pieces).
  4. Biblios (2.7) – SUPER popular small card game from Iello.
  5. Bob Ross: The Art of Chill (2.75) – I SWEAR this circulates because of Bob Ross’s face.
  6. Sushi Go Party (2.875) – Its a pass and play party from Gamewright!
  7. Splendor (3.333) – No. Surprise. Here.


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