New Library Directors Handbook

Weeding or Deselection

It doesn't matter whether we call it weeding or deselection, many library staff struggle with this part of collection development. Weeding involves removing items from a library's collection. It's a complex process that could take up the entire handbook, if we let it. The Montana Library Association and Montana State Library both try to offer courses about collection development every year. Because of this and the many other resources out there, this is going to be an introduction to weeding rather than a detailed explanation of it. The following was based upon Belinda Boon's The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-Sized Public Libraries. Copies are available at Montana State Library through Interlibrary Loan. This handbook was created by the Texas State Library, but has useful information for most public libraries.

What is the CREW method?

CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation and Weeding. It's one method of weeding a collection and refers to the need to review and evaluate the collection. Based on what you discover you may need to weed parts of the collection.

Why Weed?

  • Weeding helps you save space and time. If your shelves are crammed full and you have to put books on the top of the shelves or in other places, you can understand why space is so important. It also takes a lot of time to look through the shelves and find what you are looking for. This applies to customers as well.
  • Your collection will be attractive and appealing to customers. See your collection through the eyes of your customers. Earlier we mentioned assessing the collection. After doing an assessment do you see shelves that are too full with old, ragged books? Your customers aren't going to find that appealing. Weeding helps the collection look cleaner and neater. It also makes way for newer materials.
  • Old information may be inaccurate and in some cases dangerous. Weeding removes misleading items from the collection. Do you want your library to have a reputation for having old books? Wouldn't you rather be the place people come to for accurate up-to-date information?
  • Weeding helps you monitor and evaluate your collection. It can reveal strengths and weaknesses.

How and what do I weed?

  • This is where a strong collection development policy is helpful. List your criteria for weeding and who will do the weeding. Each library will have slightly different criteria, but some general rules of thumb are to weed:
  • Materials that are inaccurate or outdated. Medical and science books from the 1950s range from wrong to dangerous.
  • Materials that are worn out, ragged, dirty or in poor condition. Weeding these items makes the collection more attractive.
  • Unused materials. Items that haven't circulated in x number of years should be removed. Removing these items makes room for newer books that might circulate.

What do I do with items I've weeded?

  • Check with the governing authority (city/county government) for rules that may govern how the library can get rid of material.
  • Sell the items in an ongoing book sale or at an annual one.
  • Donate the items to a nursing home, local school, or correctional facility. If you do this, give the higher quality items. Don't give these facilities books that have inaccurate information or are of poor quality.
  • Trade the item with another library for an item that you will use.
  • Recycle the items.
  • Destroy the items by either throwing them away or burning them. Both of these have negative connotations, so if at all possible try to avoid doing this. Be aware that negative publicity can come from destroying the items, which is another reason for avoiding this alternative.