Weeding Library Collections: A Selected Annotated Bibliography for Library Collection Evaluation
ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 15
“Next to emptying the outdoor bookdrop on cold and snowy days, weeding is the most undesirable job in the library. It is also one of the most important. Collections that go unweeded tend to be cluttered, unattractive, and unreliable informational resources.”
– Will Manley, “The Manley Arts,” Booklist, March 1, 1996, p. 1108.
There are two aspects to weeding. The first is the writing of a collection development or selection policy that is appropriate for your community; this will serve as a guideline as you make decisions about your collection. The second is applying that policy as you make decisions about the materials in your collection. This fact sheet offers a selection of resources for collection development and evaluation, many applicable to all types of libraries and others for specific types of libraries.
COLLECTION DEVELOPMENTAASL Resource Guides for School Library Media Program Development.
"Collection Development (AASL Resource Guide)." American Library Association. 2003. http://www.ala.org/aasl/resources/collection.html
An annotated bibliography of resources for collection development for all levels of school libraries.
Baltimore County Public Schools.
Selection Criteria for School Library Media Center Collections.
Reviews the selection criteria for library media materials, steps for implementing the policy once established, lists review and selection tools, along with special factors to consider when selecting (or deselecting) various media. There is also a guide to conducting an assessment and inventory project.
"Develop Your Core Library Collection." Media & Methods 36, no. 3 (2000): 10-14.
The writers offer some suggestions on how to keep a library collection up-to-date. They consider keeping the curriculum in mind, the rewards of sampling, the importance of weeding, and creating cooperative efforts. A resource list of cross-platform library management programs is presented.
Evans, G. Edward, and Margaret R. Zarnosky. Developing Library and Information Center Collections. 4th ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.
As stated by the publisher: "This new work addresses the challenges of electronic publishing and puts issues of collection development into perspective, providing a broad understanding of the collection development process. The book covers all phases of collection development-from needs assessment, policies, and the selection process (theory and practice) to publishers, serials, protection, legal issues, and censorship and intellectual freedom."
Georgia Public Library Service.
Each public library system in Georgia seeks to provide a collection of materials, in a variety of formats, which reflect the diversity of the population served, and of American society. In the collection, as many points of view are included as possible. It is important that each library system drafts, and has approved, a written collection development policy. The Georgia Public Library Service provides guideline documents and bibliographies to assist Georgia public libraries in completing this task. Includes resources, with guidelines and bibliographies, on collection standards, policy development, core collections, opening day collections, as well as weeding.
Johnson, Peggy. Fundamentals of Collection Development & Management. Chicago: American Library Association, 2004.
This is a comprehensive guide to the process of collection development and management, including discussions of organizing and staffing; conceiving policy and creating budgets; integrating digital and traditional resources; and developing, marketing, and evaluating collections. Practical tools include forms and charts that adapt to any library, suggested references for selecting materials, and readings and case studies to allow for in-depth focus on aspects of collection development.
Public Education Network and American Association of School Librarians; edited by Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Anne Wheelock. The Information-Powered School. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001.
Outlines a specific plan for school library media specialists and teachers to share the responsibilities of planning, teaching, and assessing student learning and offering a truly coherent curriculum. Chapter 5 ("Collection Mapping: One Step in the Collection Development Process") and chapter 6 ("Curriculum Mapping") focus on collection development needs.
Van Orden, Phyllis J., and Kay Bishop. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts, Practices, and Information Sources. 3rd ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2001.
As stated by the publisher: "Updated to cover the latest opportunities and complexities posed by new technologies, this guide gives readers a comprehensive overview of the processes and procedures of developing, maintaining, and evaluating a collection at the building level. In this edition, Van Orden and Bishop cover copyright (fair use) issues and Internet (acceptable use) policies in greater detail. They also address developing technologies in terms of their impact on information access, resource sharing, and acquisitions."
"Workbook for Selection Policy Writing." Office for Intellectual Freedom. American Library Association.
Web Page: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/challengesupport/dealing/workbookselection.htm
Adobe Acrobat PDF: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/challengesupport/dealing/workbook.pdf
Although the intent of this document is to provide a foundation for a school library media center to prepare for and respond to intellectual freedom challenges, the content is a basic guide to why a selection policy is important, how to draft a policy, tools for building a collection, and procedures for responding to a challenge.
Writing Collection Development Policies: Useful Web Sites.
Developed by the Collection Development Policies Committee of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA/CODES), this site includes sample policies for all types of libraries. It includes guidelines for developing policies for electronic collections as well.
COLLECTION EVALUATIONBanks, Julie. "Weeding Book Collections in the Age of the Internet." Collection Building. 21, no. 3 (2002): 113-119
As stated in the article's abstract: "The weeding project at Southeast Missouri State University presented an opportunity to identify different variables, i.e. shelf level, book jackets, added entries, and untraced series, that impacted a book’s circulation behavior and to consider the relationship between circulation and the Internet/online database activity. Using the political science collection, the investigator found that shelf level has the strongest impact on circulation among the variables studied, but the Internet and electronic reference databases have an even greater influence on circulation. Surprisingly, one of the conclusions was that 61 percent of the political science collection either circulated only once or never circulated. It is argued that because of the pressures the Internet and electronic reference databases are placing on book collections and their use it is more important than ever to identify new collection development strategies to pinpoint which titles will be used."
Baumbach, Donna J. and Linda L. Miller. Less Is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections. Chicago: American Library Association, 2006.
By the creators of the “SUNLINK Weed of the Month” web site (see link below), this user-friendly guide explains the ins and outs, including why weeding is such an important task; outlines the steps to get started; breaks weeding criteria down by over 70 topics and Dewey Numbers with retention criteria and examples of titles to weed; clarifies how to use automation tools in weeding; outlines considerations when upgrading collections; and has recommended disposal options.
Berson, Robin Kadison. "To Weed or Not to Weed." Wilson Library Bulletin. 69, no. 10 (1995): 71-3.
The writer reflects on her experience in weeding an inherited collection of books.
Boon, Belinda, and Joseph P. Segal. The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-Sized Public Libraries. Austin, TX: Texas State Library, 1995.
The acronym, CREW, stands for "Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding" with the offered guidelines being to prune the collection of the “WORST”--“Worn out, Out of date, Rarely used, System headquarters can supply, or Trivial and faddish.” Despite the mnemonics, this text reminds us that weeding must be done as carefully and cautiously as the initial selection and acquisition.
Connor, Jane Gardner. “Collection Maintenance and Reevaluation.” In Children’s Library Services Handbook. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1990. pp. 43-45.
A brief, yet common sense discussion of weeding the children’s collection, with specific suggestions about picture books, award winning titles, and non-print resources. Other chapters in the book consider collection development planning and book selection.
Davis, Vivian R. "Weeding the Library Media Center Collection." School Library Media Activities Monthly. 17, no. 7 (2001): 26-28.
While weeding may be an important library activity, its time consuming nature may keep it from happening. This lesson-plan teaches students to evaluate the books critically in order to assist in the process.
Dickinson, Gail. "Crying Over Spilled Milk." Library Media Connection. 23, no. 7 (2005): 24-26.
A practical overview of the weeding process, with a no-nonsense approach to the emotional issues that can be involved. Specifically written for school library media specialists.
Dilevko, Juris and Lisa Gottlieb. "Weed to Achieve: A Fundamental Part of the Public Library Mission?" Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services. 27, no. 1 (2003): 73-96.
Based on responses to a survey the authors review weeding practices. The common criteria for weeding are circulation, physical condition, and accuracy of information. Article freely available online as an Adobe Reader PDF file, at:
Doll, Carol Ann, and Pamela Petrick Barron. Managing and Analyzing Your Collection: A Practical Guide for Small Libraries and School Media Centers. Chicago: American Library Association, 2002.
Chapter three, titled, "Weeding," which provides general guidelines for weeding and retention, as well as strategies to overcome barriers to weeding, can be accessed online as an Adobe Reader PDF file, at:
Doyle, Tony. "Selection versus Censorship in Libraries." Collection Management. 27, no. 1 (2002): 15-25
As stated in the article abstract: "The terrorist attacks of September 11 pose a potential threat to intellectual freedom inside and outside of libraries, particularly regarding information deemed to be useful to terrorists. After a brief look at this threat I proceed to discuss the liberal position on intellectual freedom in the light of Lester Asheim's distinction between censorship and selection. I then entertain a criticism of the liberal/Asheim position. The criticism suggests that the liberal position requires at least some public and academic libraries to carry potentially dangerous materials like bombmaking manuals. I defend the liberal position against this objection, concluding that such materials do have a place in some libraries, terrorist threats notwithstanding."
Farber, Evan. “Weeding the Collection—Painful But Necessary.” Library Issues: Briefings for Faculty and Administrators. 19, no. 2 (1998): 1-3.
Written for administrators, this article reviews the reasons why weeding is necessary, but also acknowledges the pressures that may be working against it. Also discusses remote storage as an alternative.
Intner, Sheila S. "Dollars and Sense: Censorship Versus Selection, One More Time." Technicalities. 24, no. 3 (2004): 1
---------- "Dollars and Sense: Implications for Teaching Collection Development." Technicalities. 23, no. 6 (2003): 1
Columns inspired by the author’s experience teaching collection development, with reflections on the nature of selection and issues of electronic collection development.
Lambert, Dennis K., et al. Guide to Review of Library Collections: Preservation, Storage, and Withdrawal. 2nd ed. (Collection Management and Development Guides, No. 12) Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press; published in cooperation with the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, 2002.
As stated by the publisher: "The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association, offers a host of well-integrated and forward-looking services to help you find your way through these changes. It is a leader in the development of principles, standards, and best practices for creating, collecting, organizing, delivering, and preserving information resources in all forms. It offers educational, research, and professional service opportunities. And it is committed to quality information, universal access, collaboration, and lifelong learning."
Livingston, Sally. "Weeding School Library Media Center Collections."
This site presents some the personal "words of wisdom" about weeding a library media center collection. The practical essays include information from a survey of the literature, the Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools weeding manual, and the author’s personal experience.
Slote, Stanley J. Weeding Library Collections: Library Weeding Methods. 4th ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997.
As stated by the publisher: "Slote shows you how to identify the core collections versus the weedable items. After reviewing current weeding practices and standards, he discusses a variety of traditional and computer-assisted methods for weeding."
SUNLINK Weed of the Month
The SUNLINK Weed of the Month program is an effort to help provide Florida’s K-12 School Library Media specialists with guidelines and suggestions for weeding their collections "a little at a time" as well as for adding quality materials. Funded by the Florida Department of Education, SUNLINK is Florida's K-12 public school union catalog, a shared database of materials in Florida K-12 library media centers. This is light-hearted, but sound.
Weeding in Libraries: A Partial Index to What's Out There.
Prepared by the staff of the Havana Public Library District, Havana, IL.
Links to online resources, ranging from state library sites to library school syllabi to resources developed by the Library of Congress.
Wilson, A. Paula. “Weeding the E-Book Collection.” Public Libraries. 43, no. 3 (2004): 158-159.
Tips and pointers for managing the e-books collection, with some discussion of the differences and similarities with more traditional formats.
Wynkoop, Asa. “Discarding Useless Material.” Wisconsin Library Bulletin. 7, no. 1 (1911): 53.
This citation is here to demonstrate that weeding is not a new issue in libraries... and to demonstrate the finding that one of the chief benefits of weeding is increased usage of the collection.
For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: email@example.com; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.