What is weeding
Weeding is the process of regularly removing outdated or irrelevant library resources. It's sometimes called deselection (in contrast to selection) or culling.
Items are weeded from your collection based on a set of criteria relevant to your school community. The criteria are usually included in your library guiding documents.
Library guiding documents
Working out your library's collection requirements
Weeding your School Library (YouTube)
Who does the weeding
Responsibility for discarding items from your collection varies from school to school, although it's often the school librarian who has overall responsibility.
It's helpful to work with teachers and subject specialists in your school when you're weeding your collection. Their involvement:
- provides useful feedback on weeding recommendations
- gives them an opportunity to find gaps in the collection for their teaching area — especially in intermediate and secondary schools
- improves their understanding of the weeding process, and
- helps build a more collaborative relationship with you.
When to weed
Weeding is a regular part of your collection management cycle. Like assessing your collection, it happens continually throughout the year. Put time aside for weeding — add it to your monthly or quarterly schedule and find a method that works for you, such as:
- weeding particular sections in rotation
- focusing on physical collections, like reference and magazines
- focusing on digital collections, including:
- recommended websites and any websites that are linked to from them
- library content on the school intranet and website.
Incorporating weeding activities into your regular library duties is the best way to highlight the strengths of your collection. Carrying out regular but manageable weeding keeps the task from being overwhelming.
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.
— Texas State Library and Archives Commission
How to weed
The steps that make up the weeding process can be documented in your library guiding documents and used as a guide when you start weeding.
Weeding flowchart — summarises the things you'll need to consider when weeding.
Setting criteria for weeding
Check your library guiding documents for criteria for weeding that are specific to your school. Before you start weeding, you might want to review them.
Your criteria can relate to the people who use your library, the items in your collection, and other library and information services available to your community.
Your library and its users
You might need to consider:
- the library's mission and goals
- the needs and demands of the library's community of users
- how easy it is for them to use other libraries and services in your area
- the degree to which your library serves as an archive or local history centre.
Items in your collection
Your weeding recommendations will be influenced by:
- the availability of better materials
- whether you have funds to purchase more suitable items
- the relationship of a particular item to others on that subject
- the possible future usefulness of a particular item
- the impact of removing an item from your collection, even if it does meet other weeding criteria.
You could also take into account:
- cooperative agreements you have with other libraries
- the availability of more current information on the internet.
Examples of weeding policies
Section 6.3 of Upper Hutt Library's Collection Development Policy describes their weeding, disposal and replacement policies and procedures.
Upper Hutt Library Collection Development Policy (2015) (pdf)
Section 9 of Nelson Public Library's Collection Development Policy describes their weeding and disposal procedures.
Nelson Public Library Collection Development Policy (pdf)
Processing weeded items
Your Integrated Library System (ILS) should be able to generate reports to help you with weeding. It can identify:
- how many times an item has been issued
- resources that have not been issued for a specified period of time — for example, you could run a report on fiction titles that haven’t been issued for the last 3 years.
Delete weeded items from the library catalogue so that:
- you can do accurate reporting for the financial audit
- items don't find their way back into your collection
- users don't find them in a search and expect them to still be in the library.
Some useful tips for weeding
It's a good idea to stamp weeded items as 'withdrawn'.
When you're checking websites, use link checker software to review the currency of each URL in your school library catalogue or intranet. Your ILS may have this functionality.
Check WorldCat to see nearly all public, academic and National library holdings in New Zealand and overseas. If an item is only held by a handful of libraries worldwide, it might be worth keeping.
The weeding process often brings to light other collection issues. After weeding, you may end up with items for mending, promotion, re-cataloguing, moving and replacement.
Disposing of weeded items
Disposing of books can be a sensitive issue. It's worth documenting the options in your library guiding documents. School staff need to be aware of your school’s policy on disposal, so any discussion around this can be open and any questions clarified.
If someone disagrees about a weeded item
Occasionally someone will challenge an item that has been weeded from the collection. If you have clear weeding criteria, you'll be able to respond to any challenges effectively.
Complaints about library items
Giving away weeded items
You'll need to permanently dispose of some items you've weeded, but others may have a further use.
- Some materials could be suitable for other libraries or students. For example, items at the wrong level for your students may be offered to another school which has students at that level.
- Offer high-quality non-fiction and early New Zealand material to local public libraries or historical societies.
- Items which are still in reasonable condition can go to book fairs or be donated to charitable organisations.
- You can offer pre-1940 children’s books to the National Library for the Dorothy Neal White Historical Collection — contact Services to Schools on 0800 542 5463.
Dorothy Neal White Historical Collection
Find out more
CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries (2008) by Jeanette Larson (pdf) — Texas State Library and Archives Commission