Weeding the library's collection seems to many seasoned staffers like a boring task. However, for the new librarian, it is an excellent opportunity to learn what is in the library's collection first hand. This is especially true for those staff who provide reference help to patrons.
No librarian will ever know the answer to every question asked by every patron who enters the library. The important thing is to know where to look. The catalog is definitely the first place to start when seeking answers to questions. However, there is nothing like experience in the stacks to make a librarian more proficient.
Weeding is a necessary evil and one of my favorite tasks. When I was a newly minted MSLIS working at the Reference Desk in a public library, I was already quite proficient with the patron access catalog (PAC) and the staff PAC. But, there were questions that could not easily be answered by typing in keywords. I struggled with one question in particular from a patron...where were the books to tell if someone was lying to you?
No amount of searching under subject headings or keywords could give me a satisfactory answer to the patron's question. We did browse the stacks and ultimately I found a few items that were appropriate, but not exactly what she sought. This situation repeated itself several more times and then I was given a weeding assignment by a saavy supervisor who saw my need to immerse myself in the actual volumes, not just the computer screen.
The wonderful thing about weeding is that it takes quite a bit of time and thoughtful consideration of most volumes. While weeding, one has the opportunity to handle each volume, see when it was published, how many books the library owns on the same topic, compare them to see if they contain different or similar information, contain information that is woefully out of date (computer books fall neatly here), earmark items for repair, replacement or discard.
I found an entire section on monogamy, cheating spouses, and how to spy on your significant other electronically and in person. I never would have guessed that those books existed. When I found them, I checked the catalog for the subject headings and keywords so I would know how to find them again.
Weeding is an excellent way to orient new staff to the library's collections. Electronic catalogs are wonderful and tremendously helpful; but there is no substitute for encountering the books face to face...or face to spine as the case may be.