[Updated December 2018]
Weeding, also known as de-selection, is a process of removing library materials form collections based on a certain criteria. Weeding is a necessary process that libraries continuously perform.
Weeding is vital because it saves shelf space (by removing overstuffed shelves and creating room for new books), makes it easier to browse the collection (and thus saves time), removes outdated material, makes the collection more appealing, etc.
Librarians are often hesitant to weed for many different reasons. Don’t let any hesitations get in the way of weeding; you don’t want your collection to suffer because of it. One such hesitation is the potential reaction from the public/ patrons. They may look at the process and say, “Why is the library throwing out books?” Transparency is needed to avoid any negative publicity. Get the word out before the project begins, and explain the process and why weeding is essential.
It is important for librarians and patrons alike to remember that libraries do not have unlimited space; and libraries are not museums or warehouses.
Before starting a weeding project, you should make sure your library has an updated weeding policy, and a template just so happens to be available on the State Library’s website (and also in the resources below).
Now that we’ve covered some weeding basics, it’s time to start weeding!
CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries
If you need guidance, THE definitive resource on weeding is the CREW manual, which was created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The CREW manual explains why weeding is important, it covers the weeding process, and it also offers weeding assistance on specific categories (nonfiction, fiction, graphic novels, periodicals, children’s books, young adult fiction, etc.).
Key points to take away from the CREW manual:
- When it comes to the issue of how much to weed, the CREW manual offers advice and best-practice, but it ultimately leaves the final decision up to the libraries and the best judgement of the librarians, as the number of items to be weeded can considerably vary from library to library. The manual emphasizes that instead of focusing on how much to weed, focus instead on making weeding a continuous process (see the quotes below from the CREW manual for affirmation).
- “The CREW method calls for systematic and continuous weeding of the collection… It’s not enough to weed every couple of years or only when space is getting tight. A vital, viable library collection is reviewed on an on-going basis.” (page 16-17)
- “In general, you should weed about the same amount as you are adding to the collection unless you are in a developing mode…” (page 17)
- “A rule of thumb held by many library professionals is that about 5% of the collection be weeded every year… More important than raw numbers, however, is the librarian’s commitment to making weeding part of the regular duties and responsibilities…” (page 17)
Factors for Weeding:
- Consider things like age, last circulation date, number of circulations, condition, multiple copies, etc.
- Also, you can use the acronym MUSTIE – Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, and Elsewhere (more information on MUSTIE can be found in the CREW manual)
- CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries – Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- De-selection (Weeding) Policy template – North Dakota State Library
- List of books on weeding at the State Library
- Nobody is Going to Miss that Title (Prezi) – 2012 North Dakota State Library Spring Workshop
- Awful Library Books (a fun blog-like website featuring weeded books that are way past their prime)
- Weeding posts on Library Development’s blog
- Weeding FAQs – State Library of Iowa
Videos/ Webinars/ Tutorials on Weeding:
- Library 101: Weeding – North Dakota State Library
- Feel the Need to Weed! – Rebecca Vnuk & Veronica De Fazio
- Why Is Weeding So Hard and What Can We Do About It? – Nebraska Library Commission
- Culling Your Collection: The Fine Art of Weeding – ALCTS
- Weeding the School Library Collection – Wyoming State Library
- Allen, M. (2010). Weed ’em and reap: The art of weeding to avoid criticism. Library Media Connection. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/V2Nx0P
- Chant, I. (2015). The art of weeding: Collection management. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2sqVUqc
- Vnuk, R. (2016). Weeding without worry: Transparency and communication help ease weeding woes. American Libraries. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1Zi73Rm
What to Do with Weeded Books:
- Host book sales
- Recycle the books
- Donate the books
- Also consider working with companies like Better World Books, Paper Back Swap, and Discover Books
Inspiring Quotes on Weeding:
- “A good library collection is like a good haircut. It’s not what you cut–it’s what you leave.” – Anne Felix (CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries)
- “…it is better to have worthless books in the trash than have trash on your shelves.” – Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)
- “Overflowing shelves give an overall impression of chaos and make it harder for people to fine the resources they really need.” – Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)
- “…lack of funds to replace outdated or worn items is never an excuse for not weeding.” – Jeanette Larson (CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries)
- “Try to avoid a situation where weeding is a massive project that is done once in ten years requiring you to weed hundreds of items. It is much better to make weeding an ongoing process…” – Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)
- “Patrons lose patience trying to find items that are crammed onto overcrowded shelves.” – CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries
- “Circulation can be increased by simply making the shelves look more attractive and user-friendly, even if there are actually fewer books.” – CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries