Collection Maintenance and Weeding

Every library — academic, public, and school (public, private, charter, independent, and international) — should have a comprehensive written policy that guides the selection, deselection or weeding, and reconsideration of library resources. The most valuable selection policy is current; it is reviewed and revised on a regular basis; and it is familiar to all members of a library’s staff. The policy should be approved by the library’s governing board or other policy-making body and disseminated widely for understanding by all stakeholders.

Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries

Regardless of the type of institution, collection maintenance and weeding are important components of a library’s collection management system and are often related to the goals and mission of the organization. Regardless of format, an optimal library collection is one that is reviewed on a consistent basis for accuracy, currency, usage, diversity, and subject area gaps. When evaluating print or another tangible medium, collection maintenance usually involves the continual care of the materials, including accurate and efficient shelving (and re-shelving), shelf-reading, shifting, and cleaning. With digital materials, collection maintenance includes consideration of continued sufficient coverage of databases or other electronic reference sources, checking for dead or broken links and evaluating these links for accuracy, currency, and relevancy.

Weeding or the deselection of material is critical to collection maintenance and involves the removal of resources from the collection. All materials are considered for weeding based on accuracy, currency, and relevancy. Space limitations, edition, format, physical condition, and number of copies are considered when evaluating physical materials. While weeding is essential to the collection development process, it should not be used as a deselection tool for controversial materials (see the Library Bill of Rights). Note: Step-by-step guidelines on weeding and removal procedures are not typically found in a policy but in a procedural manual. There are many weeding resources available online to provide guidance to library staff.

Public Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding

Weeding and collection maintenance are based on the availability of newer, updated resources or the circulation statistics and use of materials. Policy language that references weeding should highlight objective criteria used in making decisions, such as publication date, circulation history, and the physical condition of the resource. Public libraries may decide there are areas of the collection that are important to the community (e.g. genealogy collections and local history collections), and material may not be regularly weeded from these identified collections. The policy should note areas that are not reviewed for weeding.

While reports and automation have made weeding easier, evaluating collections should be executed with a trained librarian, as certain titles (classics, local interest, backlist for authors about to release a new title after a long hiatus) may be worth keeping on the shelves despite low usage statistics — especially if only one library in the consortium or interlibrary loan group owns and will loan a copy.

Example: Public Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding Policy

The library continually withdraws items from the collection, basing its decisions on a number of factors, including publishing date, frequency of circulation, community interest, and availability of newer or more valid materials. Items dealing with local history are an exception, as are certain classics and award-winning children's books. Fiction that was once popular but no longer in demand and non-fiction books that are no longer useful are withdrawn from the collection,

Withdrawn books are donated to the Friends of the Library for book sales. The proceeds from such sales are used for the benefit of the library. Books that are not sold will be disposed of at the discretion of the Friends of the Library.

School Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding

School librarians should develop policies to guide collection maintenance and weeding to ensure that materials and resources are available to students and staff and also to more efficiently manage the collection. These policies should include guidance on repair, replacement, and removal of materials. Weeding of the collection should also be guided by clear policies to determine when items should be removed and if they should be replaced with newer, updated content. Conducting regular inventories of the collection is also an essential component of collection maintenance and weeding.

Collection maintenance and weeding policies should also specify who repairs materials and is responsible for weeding and inventory. Policies should provide guidance about disposal of weeded items.

Example: School Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding

Annually, the school librarian will conduct an inventory of the school library collection and equipment. The inventory can be used to determine losses and remove damaged or worn materials which can then be considered for replacement. The inventory can also be used to deselect and remove materials that are no longer relevant to the curriculum or of interest to students. Additionally, school librarians should develop a collection maintenance plan that includes systematic inspection of materials that would result in weeding outdated, damaged, or irrelevant materials from the collection.

Academic Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding

In an academic library, collection maintenance and weeding are usually driven by library faculty and staff and reflect the college/university’s mission, goals, and curricula needs. In most academic libraries, the subject specialist librarian and/or departmental liaison plays a significant role in weeding the collection.

Academic library policies addressing collection maintenance and weeding can be quite lengthy and often describe a detailed set of criteria for each format and collection area. Academic libraries use circulation, publication, and subject-specific data to determine binding needs and weeding processes. Academic libraries usually engage in a multi-step approval process when items are being considered for weeding. Academic libraries frequently employ a methodology for weeding such as MUSTIE (misleading, ugly, superseded, trivial, irrelevant, or obtained elsewhere) or CREW (continuous review, evaluation, and weeding). The review process may include multiple librarians, faculty outside the library, and/or the library’s dean.

Example: Academic Library Collection Maintenance and Weeding

The library's collection should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the collection is meeting the current curriculum, research and informational needs of faculty and students. Materials that no longer meet the needs of the university community may be removed from the collection. Librarians are assigned as liaisons to specific departments, and they are responsible for tracking research trends and working with faculty in their assigned departments to ensure the library’s collection is maintained in a manner that meets the research needs of students, faculty, and staff.

Home | Introduction

Why Do I Need a Policy? | Politics and Timing of Policy Creation | Selection Policies for Non-Public Institutions

Basic Components of a Selection Policy

Library Mission | Support for Intellectual Freedom | Objectives | Responsibility for Selection | Selection Criteria | Acquisitions Procedures | Special Collections | Selecting Controversial Materials | Gifts and Donations | Collection Maintenance and Weeding | Policy Revision | Reconsideration

Reconsideration Procedure

Guiding Principles | Statement of Policy | Informal Complaints | Request for Formal Reconsideration | Sample Reconsideration Form | Sample Letter to Complainant | Reconsideration Committees


Intellectual Freedom Core Documents | Challenge Support and Reporting Censorship | Bibliography of Additional Selection and Reconsideration Policy Resources

Updated January 2018 by ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom