Informal Learning, Creative Archiving, and the Library

Every year, libraries weed and eliminate books that no longer fit the criteria for collections. This leads to the inevitable problem that occurs with weeding: what to do with these weeded books?

I also had this problem until I went to a friend’s house and saw the most gorgeous thing this librarian had ever seen—a book wreath! Weeded books took on a completely different life and use. I refer to this repurposing of weeded books as creative archiving. Creative archiving is taking a weeded book and using it for artistic and unique purposes to preserve the book in an entirely new format.

In Future Ready libraries, makerspaces are happening. My definition of makerspace is a place where students can further develop learning and understanding by creating something new to spark thinking and creativity. Nothing says makerspace like weeded books, from paperbacks to reference and everything in between. Put the weeded books out with general directions of what to do with them and allow students the space to create. Anything weeded is up for grabs, including comic books and even old test administrator manuals.

What can be done with weeded books? Every year, I ask my student aides if they’d like to make book wreaths. Creating with students is a two-fold experience for me. I take an entire day to sit down with students and get them started, modeling and showing a variety of examples. Most importantly, I create relationships with the students. I get to know them better and it’s a chance for them to know me beyond the librarian. The book wreaths are often given as holiday presents, with an overwhelming positive response. Students create a beautiful, unique gift to give a family member or friend, or even their favorite teacher or administrator. Teachers who get one from students use their bragging rights before winter break!

Buying seasonal items to decorate the library can be costly, but not if you have weeded books, markers, and twigs! In the fall, take weeded paperbacks and make pumpkins that can be dressed up with color and accent items like ribbons or glitter. Hot glue a twig on top and you have quick and easy decorations made by students to show off and display in the library.

There are also months with special significance. For example, April is National Poetry Month. Students are directed on how to create blackout poetry using a page taken at random from a weeded book. I get involved myself not only during the making, but also to help along and when they hit a snag. Students have come up with some beautiful artwork doing this while appreciating poetry as an art form.

In mystery movies and books, have you seen where criminals send notes from words cut out of magazines? With little effort, you and your students can cut out words from discarded magazines to put in a small box. Use paper, glue, markers, and the box of cutout words to create poetry.

Other inspiring ways the library and students have used weeded books in the library:

  • Cut out leaves to string and decorate the library;
  • Background for bulletin boards;
  • Making Christmas trees;
  • Using them for origami;
  • Book folding to make 3-D words come out of the covers.

With weeded books, there are limitless possibilities. Whenever I need inspiration for a new idea, I go to Pinterest and create a board with great ideas. Instead of dreading the weeding process, think of ways to creatively archive and let the fun begin!

See Naomi's Pinterest board here:

About the Author

Naomi Bates, MLA, is a teacher librarian at Northwest High School in Justin, TX. She received her master's degree at Sam Houston State University. Bates has written for numerous library journals, including Library Media Connection and Knowledge Quest. She currently serves on the Texas Library Association executive board and is a member of both her state association and the American Library Association. She was chosen as an SLJ/Cengage Emerging Library Leader and has worked with school librarians throughout the country and overseas. Bates is a regular contributor to ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom blog and she also maintains a professional blog (YA Books and More) devoted to young adult literature and educational technology. You can also find her on Twitter @yabooksandmore, where she chats monthly about young adult literature.

MLA Citation Bates, Naomi. "Informal Learning, Creative Archiving, and the Library." School Library Connection, May 2017,

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Entry ID: 2073495

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