Weeding Library Collections: A Selected Annotated Bibliography for Library Collection Evaluation

ALA Library Fact Sheet 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 Development and Selection Criteria Policies

Baltimore County Public Schools.
Selection Criteria for School Library Media Center Collections (PDF).

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.


Bishop, Kay. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts, Practices, and Information Sources. 4th ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.

This resource provides an overview of processes and procedures associated with developing, maintaining, and evaluating a collection at the building level. It offers principles, techniques, and common practices of collection development and management while weaving in new considerations. New topics include licensing online resources such as subscription databases, creating a collection development policy that meets curriculum standards, circulating and promoting the collection, using online selection and evaluation tools, providing remote access to school library collections, using virtual libraries to increase the collection, and writing policy and procedures manuals. 


Collection Development - General from AASL Essential Links: Resources for School Library Media Program Development.

An annotated bibliography of resources for collection development for all levels of school libraries, compiled by ALA's American Association of School Librarians (AASL).


Evans, G. Edward, and Margaret Zarnosky Saponaro. Developing Library and Information Center Collections. 5th ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2005.

This covers all phases of collection development--from needs assessment, policies, and the selection process (theory and practice), to publishers, serials, protection, legal issues, censorship, and intellectual freedom. New to this edition is a CD containing supplementary material; a companion Web site will also be maintained to ensure URLs referenced throughout the text are kept up to date. As the authors put it in their introductory chapter, "whatever environment one works in, collection development is an exciting challenge that requires lifelong learning." 


Georgia Public Library Service. Collection Development.

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.


Gregory, Vicki L. Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections: An Introduction. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2011.

This text was overseen by an editorial advisory board: Karen Brown (Dominican University), Kay Ann Cassell (Rutgers University), Alma Dawson (Lousiana State University), Ann O’Neill (Emporia State University), and Patricia Oyler (Simmons College). Vicki Gregory, Professor at the University of South Florida, takes a process approach to her subject, making the book easy to consult about a specific question or problem. Each chapter includes discussion questions, activities, references, and selected readings. Special features include samples of a needs assessment report, a collection development policy, an approval plan, and an electronic materials license.


Hibner, Holly, and Mary Kelly. Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2010.

Making a Collection Count takes a uniquely holistic and comprehensive approach to helping public, academic, school, and special librarians develop collections that are functional, up-to-date, and relevant. Authors Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly focus specifically on collection quality, and provide highly practical guidance for selection, cataloging, shelving, circulation, staff management, budgeting, and weeding. They examine best practices for gathering and analyzing data from every point of a collection’s lifecycle, as well as the important relationships between collection development and other key library services like reference, programming, and technology. Topics covered include materials selection, collection development policy, acquisitions, understanding the workflow, and inventory.  See the February 1, 2012 entry from Neal-Schuman's DIY Blog, Interview with Holly Hibner, author of Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management, which explains that Hibner is co-founder of the popular blog Awful Library Books.


Italiano, Julie. Library Collection Management 101. InfoPeople Workshop: March-June 2006.

This online archive of a past Infopeople Workshop retains Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader PDF versions of the workshop's many materials and handouts, including a webliography, core collection development selection resources, a collection development plan, de-selection guidelines, weeding guidelines, a patron request for reconsideration of library material form and a suggestion for purchase form, as well as Italiano's PowerPoint presentation and a budget example Excel spreadsheet. 


Johnson, Peggy. Fundamentals of Collection Development & Management. 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2008.

Peggy Johnson addresses the art in controlling and updating your library's collection. Each chapter offers complete coverage of one aspect of collection development, including suggestions for further reading and a narrative case study exploring the issue. Johnson also integrates electronic resources throughout the book, covering the following topics: Organization and Staffing; Policymaking and Budgeting; and Purchasing and Weeding. Johnson offers a comprehensive tour of this essential discipline and situates the fundamental ideas of collection development and management in historical and theoretical perspective, bringing this modern classic fully up to date. Along with the table of contents and the index, Chapter 1: Introduction to Collection Management and Development is freely available as an Adobe Reader PDF. The Web Extra for Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management consists of forms and other sample materials discussed in the book.


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.


Singer, Carol A. Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.

Whether a library's reference collection is large or small, it needs constant attention. Singer's book offers information and insight on best practices for reference collection management, no matter the size, and shows why managing without a plan is a recipe for clutter and confusion. In this very practical guide, reference librarians will learn the importance of collection development policies, and how to effectively involve others in the decision-making process; new insights into selecting reference materials, both print and electronic; and strategies for collection maintenance, including the all-important issue of weeding. This book will help librarians make better reference decisions, aligned to customer needs and expectations, especially significant with today’s limited budgets. The Web Extra for Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections is the Reference Collection Development Policy Template that appears as an appendix in the book.


Workbook for Selection Policy Writing from ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

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.


Collection Evaluation and Weeding

Baumbach, Donna J. and Linda L. Miller. Less Is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections. Chicago: American Library Association, 2006.

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. Simple, practical advice along with specific criteria for weeding the school library collection means specialists in public and private schools, as well as children's and young adult librarians will improve collections following these quick and easy guidelines.


Dickinson, Gail. "Crying Over Spilled Milk (PDF)." 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? (PDF)" 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.


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.

If you can follow a cookbook, you can use these simple "recipes"—calculations, formulas, and measurements—to come up with statistics for analysis and management of your collection. Using measures of timeliness, relevancy, use percentages, user profiles, and comparisons, you can determine in quantitative ways the quality of your library's collection. From there, you can communicate its value to your customers. By gathering concrete statistical evidence, you will be in a position to weed appropriately and make decisions about future market-targeted acquisitions. An added bonus is that you can create a research-based profile of your total library—its collection and users—that you can present to budget-makers and potential funders. These time-tested, step-by-step directions show even the most math-phobic how to: gather and analyze data produced by automated systems; conduct a random sampling using one of three easy-to-execute methods; evaluate all types of information formats including books, videos, periodicals, and CD-ROMs; provide hard evidence to decision makers; improve collections with smart weeding to make way for new acquisitions; and estimate the cost of updating your collection. 


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.

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.


Larson, Jeanette. CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, Revised and Updated. Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 2008.

For more than 30 years, The CREW Method has provided guidance to librarians and staff in small and medium sized public libraries about how to cull outdated and no longer useful materials from their collections. Since its inception in 1976, The CREW Method has become the benchmark tool for weeding library collections. The CREW guidelines by Dewey Class have been expanded and updated to reflect current practices. New sections have been added that explain in more detail the MUSTIE factors and types of disposal. The bibliography has been updated to include current editions of standard works, contemporary selections, and expanded online resources.


Slote, Stanley J. Weeding Library Collections: Library Weeding Methods. 4th ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997.

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.


Vnuk, Rebecca. "Weeding Tips: The Basics." Booklist Online, February 15, 2012.

A look at why it's important to weed your library collection and an overview of the CREW Method (above). The start of a series of articles on weeding, subsequent Weeding Tips articles by Vnuk focus on weeding specific sections of your library, Shelf by Shelf.


Wilson, A. Paula. "Weeding the E-Book Collection (PDF)." Public Libraries. 43, no. 3 (May/June 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.


Library Discards

There is information for libraries on organizations and companies that will accept discards from the collection on ALA Library Fact Sheet 12 - Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs.

Further information on library discards is available on the Collection Evaluation -- and De-Selection (Weeding) page of the ALA Professional Tips Wiki.


Last updated: December 2014


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: library@ala.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.