Weeding a library collection is the opposite of selecting resources to add to the collection. In some quarters it is referred to as deselection. In essence, it is choosing items that are no longer relevant for the library’s community for disposal or relocation.
This activity sometimes is a cause of concern within the community, especially where little or no consultation or awareness-raising has taken place. While this can be uncomfortable to work through – it demonstrates how much communities care about their libraries’ assets – and that’s a good problem to have. Publishing a collection development policy that addresses the retirement of library resources and an ongoing weeding program provides a business-as-usual impression. When weeding programs are infrequent, but on a large scale there is a greater likelihood that more communication with the community will be required. But sometimes large, occasional weeding projects cannot be avoided.
A recent story from the US illustrates the high drama that can surround a weeding program.
Factors that might be considered when deselecting items:
- there are more copies in the collection than are needed to meet demand for that title
- the items have not been borrowed (or even used within the library) in a very long time
- the items are in subject areas that are no longer taught at the school or university
- the items are in poor condition, not suitable to lend
- how many copies of the resource are held by other libraries in the region/country – eg. a library might keep a title if they have the only copy in Australia
- content is out-dated
What do libraries do with books they are disposing? Some have book sales – maybe run by a friends of the library association. Money raised may go back into purchasing new items for the collection. Some items may be made available for other libraries. Some may be shipped to new libraries in developing countries. Some items may be beyond re-use and just have to be destroyed.Some items will be obsolete – consider cd-roms with software for old operating systems. Some items may be moved to storage facilities because they are too important to dispose of but not used so often that they need shelf-space in a busy library.