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Collection Development and Maintenance: Weeding

“A good library collection is like a good haircut. It’s not what you cut–it’s what you leave.”

– Anne Felix (CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries)

“…it is better to have worthless books in the trash than have trash on your shelves.”

– Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)

“Overflowing shelves give an overall impression of chaos and make it harder for people to find the resources they really need.”

– Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)

“…lack of funds to replace outdated or worn items is never an excuse for not weeding.”

– Jeanette Larson (CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries)

“Try to avoid a situation where weeding is a massive project that is done once in ten years requiring you to weed hundreds of items. It is much better to make weeding an ongoing process…”

– Melissa Allen (Weed ‘Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism)

“Patrons lose patience trying to find items that are crammed onto overcrowded shelves.”

– CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries

“Circulation can be increased by simply making the shelves look more attractive and user-friendly, even if there are actually fewer books.”

– CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries

General Information

Weeding, also known as de-selection, is a process of removing library materials form collections based on certain criteria. Weeding is a necessary process that libraries continuously perform.

Weeding is vital because it saves shelf space (by removing overstuffed shelves and creating room for new books), makes it easier to browse the collection (and thus saves time), removes outdated material, makes the collection more appealing, and more.

When weeding, consider factors such as the age of the material, last circulation date, number of circulations, condition, if the system has other copies of the book, or if the book is a part of a series. This is similar to the MUSTIE acronym: Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, and Elsewhere.

This page highlights different weeding resources to help make sure the library's shelves are full of relevant, up-to-date, and enjoyable materials.

CREW Weeding Manual

The definitive resource on weeding is the CREW manual, which was created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.  

The CREW manual explains why weeding is important, it covers the weeding process, and it also offers weeding assistance on specific categories (nonfiction, fiction, graphic novels, periodicals, children’s books, young adult fiction, etc.).

Key points to take away from the CREW manual:

  • When it comes to the issue of how much to weed, the CREW manual offers advice and best-practice, but it ultimately leaves the final decision up to the libraries and the best judgment of the librarians, as the number of items to be weeded can considerably vary from library to library. The manual emphasizes that instead of focusing on how much to weed, focus instead on making weeding a continuous process (see the quotes below from the CREW manual for affirmation).
  • “The CREW method calls for systematic and continuous weeding of the collection… It’s not enough to weed every couple of years or only when space is getting tight. A vital, viable library collection is reviewed on an on-going basis.” (page 16-17)
  • “In general, you should weed about the same amount as you are adding to the collection unless you are in a developing mode…” (page 17)

Sell Weeded Books Online

There are many places to sell books online for either a profit or for books in return. If these don't seem to fit your needs, you can host a book sale, repurpose the books into art supplies, recycle the materials (Only the pages of a hardcover book are recyclable), or donate the materials.

Some of the most popular options for libraries in North Dakota are selling their weeded books using AmazonBetter World Books, ThriftBooks, or Baker & Taylor's Sustainable Shelves Program.

If those programs don't look like they're a fit for your library or collection, consider looking at the following programs: AbeBooks, AbeBooks Book BuyBack Program, Alibris, Biblio, Discover Books, eBay, or PaperBack Swap.