Weeding Library Collections

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Success Stories


  • CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, Revised and Updated by Jeanette Larson, Texas State Library, 2008 Electronic Version

Tips/Successful Models for Weeding Library Collections

  • Weeding the Fiction Collection: Should I Dump Peyton Place? A comprehensive web page about weeding fiction, with a bibliography, links to policies, excerpts from policies, bullet points about weeding, and even a weeding skit, from Overbooked at the Chesterfield County (VA) Public Library.
  • SUNLINK Weed of the Month Archive Advice for weeding non-fiction books and media, aimed at school libraries, but of interest to public libraries also.

Dickinson, G. (2005, April/May). Crying over spilled milk. Library Media Connection, 24-26. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from ERIC Database. Reviewed by Barb DeFreece, Library Science Major,UNO.

There isn't one media specialists that doesn't find the job of weeding their selection daunting. I recently found an article on weeding that has a quick and easy way to weed your collection.

Dr. Gail Dickison wrote in Library Media Connection,April/May2005, "Weeding is a professional responsibility. It was what librarians in all types of libraries do." Dr. Dickinson suggest taking fifteen minute every week and try one shelf a week approach. The three steps she suggests are:

Step One: Start with one shelf and pull out the books on that shelf and just do a visual check. Using a quick glance, are there any books that look as if they need to be weeded?

Step Two: Once you have a pile of suspect books, apply the rules of deselection and make the decision to toss or keep.

Step Three: Take the books you have chosen to pull from the collection to a workstation. At this point, you complete the steps to remove a book from your collection and the author suggests tossing the book in the trashcan.

Dr. Dickinson suggest this method of weeding should take about fifteen minutes and over time will become a quick and efficient method of weeding. By keeping track of what you have weeded, eventually you will make it around your library. "Weeding, when viewed as a normal part of library center routine, does not involve shirt sleeves, hot summer days, or brown paper bags surrepitiously stored in the trunk of the library media specialist's car. Plan to start your 15 Minutes-To-A-Better-Collection exercise routine today."

Time management in any educational setting is crucial to success. This is a great solution to a daunting task that must be done to any collection. By taking this simple approach to weeding and making it a part of your weekly routine, it will not become an overwhelming task and it will also help you become more familiar with your collection, one shelf at a time.

Dickinson, G. (2005, April/May). Crying over spilled milk. Library Media Connection, 24-26. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from ERIC Database.

If your library must weed thousands of books, you may want to consider evaluating in batch using a free tool called the GIST Gift & Deselection Manager: [1] Simply export, using your library integrated library system, a list of ISBN and/or OCLC#s of books that haven't recently checked out, or never checked out, run the batch analysis and GIST GDM provides you a spreadsheet of data, including; how widely held is the book, is it available free from HathiTrust or Google Books, etc. Filter the data based on your criteria, and use the results as your pull list, and even batch de-attach your OCLC symbol using the OCLC#s from the spreadsheet.

Ideas for Disposing of Weeded Books and/or Used Books

  • Throw Them Away. It's okay, really. It's hard, but sometimes, there's a reason why a book hasn't circulated in 5 or 10 years, or why it didn't sell at the book sale. Please consider recycling your old, outdated, damaged or otherwise unwanted books as a viable option. The resources listed below are outlets for quality books only, not dumping grounds.
  • Book sale (on-going in the library or annual Friends of the Library sale)
    • Have a "$1 per bag" sale for the last day or few hours of the sale - as many books someone can fit into their bag (or box) for $1
    • Set out leftover books in "Free" boxes after the sale
  • Donate books to:
    • Hands Across the Water
    • GotBooks.com
    • Books for Soldiers
    • Goodwill or Salvation Army stores (contacting the store first might be a good idea)
    • Furniture stores and restaurants are sometimes interested in books, as they use them as props in their displays
    • Jails and prisons often take books, but often will only take certain kinds
    • Nursing homes or group homes (particularly useful for getting rid of old Large Print materials)
    • Donate to the physical archive part of the Internet Archive. Their plan is to collect one physical edition of every book ever published. [2]
  • Distribute books through:
    • BookCrossings.com
    • FreeCycle.og
    • CraigsList.org
  • Sell books through:
    • Zubal Books
    • BookProspector.com
    • Powell's Bookstore (Portland, OR)
  • Sell books on consignment:
    • BetterWorldBooks.com:Let Us Sell Your Discards & Donations Online! Our NO COST program is simple. We sell discarded and donated material from libraries across the United States on over 17 online marketplaces—generating funding for both libraries and non-profit literacy initiatives.
    • B-Logistics
  • Try an art or altered book project, such as:
    • This Into That (building furniture with books)
    • Altered Books
    • Sorted Books (arranging books so their titles spell you meaningful phrases)
    • Donate books to an artist who works with books

Blogs/Websites to Watch

Deselection Knowledge-Base - 250 articles, white-papers, websites, blogs, slide decks, conference proceedings, and books - all focused on monographs weeding; offsite book storage; library space planning; shared print initiatives; collaborative collection management; collection use; collection assessment; national-level collections research; digital preservation; and various musings about the future of print collections. Maintained by Sustainable Collection Services.

Specific Blog Posts/Articles to Check Out

  • Tis the Season to Weed Travel Books
  • Weeding Clinton and Bush
  • The Weeding of Compassionate Conservatism