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 collection development or selection 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.

The Acquisitions and Collection Development section of the ALA Online Store quickly links to ALA's own print books, e-books, eCourses, and webinars on these subjects.

A list of books on collection development, compiled by this office, appears at WorldCat.org, the free online database of library catalogs from across the country, in which you can search for a book title by zip code to get the closest library that has it, at:
Collection Development and Management at WorldCat.org

Also see the ALA Professional Tips Wiki page on Collection Development.

Further ALA resources are available on the Collection Development topic page.

Collection Development and Selection Criteria Policies

Alabaster, Carol. Developing an Outstanding Core Collection: A Guide for Libraries. 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010.

Packed with selection resources and sample core lists in seven subject areas, this soup-to-nuts manual will be useful whether you are starting from scratch or revitalizing an existing collection. Focuses on developing a collection with high-quality materials while saving time and money. The freely available Developing an Outstanding Core Collection excerpt (PDF) includes the table of contents, the preface to the second edition, the full text of chapter 1: "The Philosophy of Adult Core Collections", and the index.

Albitz, Becky, Christine Avery, and Diane Zabel. Rethinking Collection Development and Management. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2014.

Reveals how dramatically collection development is changing, and has already changed; supplies practical suggestions on how librarians might respond to these advancements; and reflects on what librarians can expect in the future. A chapter on collection development and management in the MLIS curriculum makes this volume especially pertinent to library and information science educators.

Arndt, Theresa S. Getting Started with Demand-Driven Acquisitions for E-Books: A LITA Guide. Chicago: ALA TechSource, An imprint of the American Library Association, 2015.

With so many titles out there, how do you know which ones will actually circulate? Demand-driven acquisition (DDA) may be the answer for your library, and getting started needn’t be daunting. This LITA Guide includes more than 200 criteria questions to help you develop a DDA e-book program that's right for your library. Focusing on the unique requirements and processes of e-book acquisition, this guide will help ensure that your library's e-book collection is both vibrant and cost-effective. An e-book edition of Getting Started with Demand-Driven Acquisitions for E-Books and a print/e-book bundle of Getting Started with Demand-Driven Acquisitions for E-Books are also available. The freely available Getting Started with Demand-Driven Acquisitions for E-Books excerpt (PDF) includes the table of contents, full text of the introduction, full text of chapter 1: "What Is Demand-Driven Acquisition, and Why Do It?", and the index.

Bishop, Kay. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices. 5th ed. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2013.

This practical text provides all the information and direction beginning school librarians need to develop and manage multiformat collections. With the myriad number of print and electronic materials now available for school libraries, librarians need to know how to select the right materials for their libraries, and how to maintain, evaluate, circulate, and promote their collections. A one-stop resource that thoroughly overviews the policies and procedures for timely and effective collection development for school libraries, the work is organized by chapters that explain the various tasks involved in effective collection development for school libraries. This introductory text includes a listing of the advantages, disadvantages, and copyright concerns of various formats, and also provides guidance on how to write policy and procedure manuals for school libraries; addresses concerns that impact collection development, such as ethical and fiscal issues, the curriculum, the school library environment, and special groups of students; and includes several figures and tables relating to these topics.

Bridges, Karl. Customer-Based Collection Development: An Overview. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2014.

A collection of essays on patron-driven acquisitions (PDA), with special emphasis on e-books. Both positive and negative aspects are addressed. This book gathers together the best practitioners in the emerging field of customer-based collection development, whose goal is to find out what library users need and want and manage collections accordingly. Speaking from firsthand experience, professionals from a variety of academic and public libraries offer strategies for planning and implementing a customer-based collection program; summarize its potential impact on a library's budget; discuss cataloging implications, and other day-to-day operational issues; and present guidelines for evaluating and marketing. Customer-based collection development is one way for libraries to navigate the rapid changes in what users expect of libraries, and this new anthology is an important guide to this approach. The freely-available Customer-Based Collection Development excerpt (PDF) includes the table of contents, the full text of chapter 1: "E-Books and Patron-Driven Acquisitions in Academic Libraries", and the index.

Clement, Susanne K., and Jennifer M. Foy. ClipNote 42: Collection Development in a Changing Environment: Policies and Organization for College and University Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011.

This is the first all digital (PDF) ClipNote publication. It is also the first ClipNote to use excerpts, many of which are hyperlinked, from more than 60 libraries. For each collection development policy element, the ClipNote provides examples of not only traditional policy language but also examples of unique, forward thinking or strategic language. The topical organization should be useful for a wide variety of large and small college and university libraries and will facilitate both writing an all-new policy or revising outdated sections of an existing policy. Multiple, simultaneous user access is allowed for this e-book.

Disher, Wayne. Crash Course in Collection Development. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2014.

This professional volume covers all aspects of collection development and management in the public library, from gathering statistics to design a collection that meets community needs, to selecting materials, managing vendor relations, understanding the publishing industry, and handling complaints. Author Wayne Disher provides public librarians—especially those without the benefit of academic training—access to the tools to make them successful, and their collections beneficial to the public they serve. The second edition features two new chapters on digital curation and cooperative collection development. Additional updates include helpful information on infographics, more budgeting formulas, and a section on core collections, as well as content covering eBooks, electronic storage, and digital rights management. Chapters discuss subjects such as marketing the collection to patrons, book repair, and handling censorship issues when collections are challenged.

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.

Practical and to the point, here's an authoritative guide to collection development and management that covers the entire gamut. 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. The freely available Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections excerpt (PDF) includes the extensively-detailed table of contents and full text of the preface.

Johnson, Peggy. Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management. 3rd, Rev. Ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2014.

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. Each chapter offers complete coverage of one aspect of collection development and management, including numerous suggestions for further reading and narrative case studies exploring the issues. The freely available Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management excerpt (PDF) includes the table of contents, preface to the third edition, partial text of the first chapter, and the extensive index.

Kerby, Mona. Collection Development for the School Library Media Program: A Beginner's Guide. Chicago, Ill: American Association of School Librarians, 2006.

Easy to use guide to 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.

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

Offers information and insight on best practices for reference collection management, no matter the size, including 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. The Web Extra for Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections is the Reference Collection Development Policy Template that appears as an appendix in the book. An e-book edition of Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections and a print/e-book bundle of Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections are also available. The freely available excerpts include the table of contens of Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections (PDF) and the full text of Chapter 1: "Reference Collection Fundamentals" (PDF).

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.

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.

Kelly, Mary, and Holly Hibner. Why We Weed. Awful Library Books: Hoarding is not collection development. Internet resource.

Weeding is an essential component of library collection management. Most libraries simply do not have unlimited space, and we must continually make room for new materials. Weeding is necessary to remain relevant to our users and true to our missions. Remember – unless your library exists to archive and preserve materials for the ages, we are not in the business of collecting physical things. We collect information and provide access to information. We love books as much as anyone else, and sometimes hard decisions have to be made. How many times have you said, "But I just bought that!" and then realized it was ten years ago?

Librarians, bibliophiles, and lovers of nostalgia are all welcome here. Your librarians for this site are Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner. We are public librarians in Michigan. We have both been holding court at various reference desks for over ten years and love talking about library collections and library service. We also regularly present and consult on various library topics. (This blog was actually a result of one of those presentations. Read more about that on Will Weed For Food.) This site is a collection of library holdings that we find amusing and/or questionable for libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection. Contained in this site are actual library holdings. No libraries are specifically mentioned to protect our submitters who might disagree with a particular collection policy. (A good librarian would probably be able to track down the holding libraries without too much trouble anyway…) Our posts come from our travels, snooping in library catalogs, and from library staff all over the world. Please join in the fun and send us your finds. Go to Submissions to find out more details. Comments are welcome and moderated, but we do ask everyone to be nice and use your library voice. You are welcome to any of our images and text, but please link back to us or give us credit. Librarians love a good citation!

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.

Revised in 2012 to include a section on e-books! 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. It has been more than a decade since the first revised edition brought technology and online catalogs into the process. This new edition, called CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, builds on the work of Joseph P. Segal and Belinda Boon. Although much of the basic information remains the same, the impact of changes in technology and its effect on library collections has been taken into consideration. The CREW guidelines by Dewey Class have been expanded even further 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. The Weeding Handbook: A Shelf-by-Shelf Guide. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2015.

This handbook, which grew out of a series of Weeding Tips columns by Booklist editor Vnuk, takes the guesswork out of this delicate but necessary process, giving public and school library staff the knowledge and the confidence to effectively weed any collection, of any size. Going through the proverbial stacks shelf by shelf, Vnuk explains why weeding is important for a healthy library, demonstrating that a vibrant collection leads to robust circulation, which in turn affects library budgets; walks readers through a library's shelves by Dewey area, with recommended weeding criteria and call-outs in each area for the different considerations of large collections and smaller collections; features a chapter addressing reference, media, magazines and newspapers, e-books, and other special materials; shows how a solid collection development plan uses weeding as an ongoing process, making it less stressful and more productive; offers guidance for determining how to delegate responsibility for weeding, plus pointers for getting experienced staff on board; gives advice for educating the community about the process, how to head off PR disasters, and what to do with weeded materials. Includes a dozen sample collection development plans, easily adaptable to suit a library's individual needs. An e-book edition of The Weeding Handbook and The Weeding Handbook print/e-book bundle are also available. The freely available Weeding Handbook excerpt (PDF) includes the publication's table of contents, the full text of the introduction, and the index.

Ward, Suzanne M. Rightsizing the Academic Library Collection. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2015.

By learning how to rightsize, you will ensure that your institution's collection meets the needs of your library’s users. Ward introduces the concept of rightsizing, a strategic and largely automated approach that uses continuous assessment to identify the no- and low-use materials in the collection; walks you through crafting a rightsizing plan, from developing withdrawal criteria and creating discard lists to managing workflow and disposing of withdrawn materials; shows how to identify stakeholders, plus strategies for winning them over; offers tips for working with consortial partners on collaborative print retention projects; discusses how growing electronic collections can enhance legacy print collections; advises what to do with print journals after your library licenses perpetual access rights to the electronic equivalent; and looks ahead to the future of physical collections in academic libraries. The freely available Rightsizing the Academic Library Collection excerpt (PDF) includes the table of contents, full text of the introduction, full text of the first chapter, and the index.

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 2015

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.