Weeding Library Collections

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Removing books from the circulating collection, or “weeding,” is an ongoing part of collection development that will ensure that the collection is current and enticing to the reader.

A few guidelines:

Type of Book: Sometimes books are added to the collection because they are gifts from faculty, or “friends,” who the library does not want to risk offending. - Textbooks become obsolete quickly, and new editions may be issued frequently. You may find several editions or the same text. These are prime candidates for de-selection except in the rare case that a basic text has been reissued over several decades (such as Samuelson on economics), in which case the texts may be of interest as a source of tracking the changes in a field or subject. But a couple of different editions, outdated, are probably of no value. - Books of Readings: These are rarely of any lasting value. - Books of commercial or propagandistic purpose: These are rarely of lasting value. - Compilations of information: Annual “reports” are of little value in isolation, but of considerable value if we hold a long run and it is current.

Authority: On the other hand, scholarly monographs, biographies, and intellectual or artistic treatises tend to have lasting value for the researcher. The issue here is authority, and the age of the book, or the date of last circulation, does not signal that the book should be pulled. Intellectual and research trends are cyclical in nature. A theme or subject can re-emerge decades later, and when that happens the significant treatise will be sought after, regardless of age or recent use. Evidence of “authority” can be found in:

Author: If you recognize the author, hold off. Do we have more than one title from this author? If so, that is evidence of authority.

Publisher: This is a major piece of the authority issue. A major university press or a leading publisher suggests more lasting value.

Evidence of research: Is there a bibliography? Index? Are there endnotes/footnotes? These give a work enduring value.

Currency: This is a major consideration. Is the information current? Obsolete? The answer will depend on the subject. In some areas change is very rapid and dated information is worse that no information; in other disciplines, such as literary theory, or history, or philosophy, currency is less critical and “authority” is of greater import.

Condition and Appearance of the Book: Research indicates that worn, outdated, and clearly “obsolete” books will not be checked out. If you cannot read the title on the shelf, or it is coming apart, it should either be repaired or discarded.

Use: How long since the book last circulated? If longer than ten years there should be some other reason for keeping it (see “authority” above).

Shelving: Another research finding is that if a shelf is crowded and volumes are jammed together, the searcher may pass it by. Also, if the “shelf” appears to consist mainly of old, worn, unattractive books, then the reader will not consider a new and relevant book “lost” in the crush.

Subject and Language: Is the subject relevant to our curriculum? Is the language one that is read on campus? “No’s” to those questions render a volume a candidate for weeding.

Other factors: - Multiple copies (unless all are repeatedly used) - Level (appropriate to college work) - Ephemera, a fad whose time is long gone.

Process guideline: We should weed by sections, set “candidates” on a book truck, and then review all proposed “de-selections.” Ideally, a librarian and faculty member/subject specialist – or at least two librarians – should agree that a volume should be pulled.


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