The teacher librarian sustains a healthy collection through an effective maintenance program.
I hate to throw things away. How do I know when something should be pitched?
There's a really old video on first aid that the fifth grade teacher is still using. It's inaccurate in some sections. What should I do?
One of my buildings is closing. How do I get rid of everything?
The collection must be examined periodically to determine what materials need to be repaired, replaced, or removed. Whether you're examining the copyright dates on your book collection or editing broken links at your library website, maintenance is an essential aspect of collection development.
You also need policies that help you in the reconsideration process. A statement regarding the need for reevaluation of materials should be part of your selection policy. It should also indicate specifications for periodic inventories and recommendations for continuous and intermittent examination. Finally, criteria should be included for deselection of materials.
What is weeding?
Weeding or deselection is selection in reverse. It is the practice of discarding or transferring to storage excess copies, rarely used items, and materials no longer in use.
For example, the book on the left titled Space Flight: The Coming Exploration of the Universe by Lester Del Rey (1959) was found in the science section of the library. The information in this book is nearly half a century old.
Purging is officially withdrawing an item from the collection. You'll want to destroy or deface purged materials to avoid "haunting materials." These are items that mysteriously reappear in your check-in bin years after they were discarded.
A policy is an important part of the weeding process. If you don't have a policy statement, how are you going to respond to questions?
- What happened to "The Wizard of Oz"?
- What happened to "Future of the railroad"?
- What happened to "Sally the nurse, Fred the Fireman"?
Weed now or weed later?
The answer to this question is WEED NOW! There are two laws of nature concerning weeding. First, no matter how strange, one person will find the item useful. Second, no matter how long you've had it, ten minutes after it's gone, someone will want it. Don't worry, it happens.
How do you deal with guilt over tossing materials?
Weeding involves guilt. You feel bad because you are throwing away books, videos, or software. Think about it. Do you want a student to get inaccurate information? Do you want a little girl to think she can't be a doctor because only boys are represented as doctors in the career book she is reading? Do you want students to handle old, moldy books? At times, there are so many old books that students can't find the good ones. Weeding is essential.
With changing needs in the curriculum and limited space for expansion, you don't have a choice. The following list discusses why weeding is important:
- saves space; makes room for items to breathe on the shelf
- improves access and visibility
- gets rid of poor materials
- makes collection development worthwhile
- the good items can be found
There's no reason to have a shelf filled with Apple II computer software that will never be used.
What excuses can be used for not weeding?
"Weeding is defined as the ongoing process of removing resources from the collection. What is also ongoing, unfortunately, is the recurring outcry from the public over weeded resources. Visions of headlines such as "Librarian Trashes Precious Books" and scores of parent protesters guarding school dumpsters can turn even the most determined library media specialist into an equally determined weeding procrastinator."
Gail Dickinson (Apr / May 2005). Crying Over Spilled Milk (PDF document). Library Media Connection; 23(7), 24-26.
There are many excuses for not weeding. You may say you don't have time. In the long run weeding saves time by helping you see what you've got. you won't keep wasting time with old materials. You may say you're scared of making a mistake. Deselection criteria will help you make good decisions. You may fear throwing things out. Purging just takes practice. Repeat to yourself, quantity does not insure quality.
Remind yourself: like a healthy garden, a library must be weeded.
What should be considered in weeding?
There are some things that should not be weeded. However, you may choose to move them out of general circulation. The following list provides some examples.
- research value - good photos
- out of print
- local title
- unusual illustrations
- balance a topic
- rare items
- list for core collection
What should be weeded?
Consider the physical condition, qualitative worth and quantitative worth of the item.
First, check the physical condition. Should it be repaired, replaced, or tossed?
Second, think about the qualitative worth of the material. Do you have anything else on the topic. Is the information negative, harmful, or subjective?
Third, examine the quantitative worth. Do you need multiple copies for classes or could you toss the copy in the worst shape?
Read Allen, Melissa (May/Jun 2010). Weed 'Em and Reap: The Art of Weeding to Avoid Criticism (PDF document requires free Adobe Reader Plugin; Access also requires login). Library Media Connection; 28(6), 32-33.
Look for the following things:
- last date of circulation ( 3 years with no circulation + 10 years old)
- physical condition
- in or out of style/fad
- superseded editions
- subject areas
- material type - Super8, beta tapes, floppy disks
- technical aspects - sound, equipment needed
- content relevance
What kind of weeder are you?
There are many types of weeders. What kind are you?
Weekly Weeder. This person has a schedule for weeding. For example, every Friday afternoon might be devoted to weeding. Or, Tuesday morning after the staff meeting.
Whenever Weeder. This weeder knows that weeding need to be done, but doesn't seem to be able to fit it into the schedule. There's a master plan, but it may take years to get it done. Weeding may take place when there is no other choice. For example, if you're looking for something, you might weed the poor items around it. Or you might week the video collection when the shelf is full.
Quarterly Weeder. This person has a schedule like the weekly weeder and keeps on the schedule. It will be done, slowly but surely.
Inventory Weeder. Weed while doing inventory. This makes inventory take longer, but both are accomplished at once.
Major Project Weeder. The person does weeding as part of a larger project. For example, they may dive into the geography section as part of a project focusing on social studies standards.
Read Dickinson, Gail (Apr/May 2005). Crying Over Spilled Milk (PDF document). Library Media Connection; 23(7), 24-26.
What types of things am I likely to find?
You will find all kinds of odd things when weeding. Some examples are below:
- writing and coloring in books
- books that have been eaten
- binding that fall apart
- pages that have been removed
- food in books
- moist or wet books
Are there special considerations for weeding equipment?
Many school district have policies regarding discarded items over $200 or $500. There may be special discarding procedures such as taking the item off a district inventory list or sending it out for sale. In addition, there may be special paperwork for removal from inventory. You should keep good records on equipment repairs so you can justify removal and new purchases. These records should include who, where, when, why, and how much questions regarding equipment. Always weigh the cost of repairs versus cost of replacement. It is often cheaper to buy new.
How can you have fun with weeding?
Check out the following humorous look at weeding
- If it isn't clean, it will be thrown away
- If it doesn't look good, it will be thrown away
- if it can't be managed, it will be thrown away
- If it is abused, it will be thrown away
- If it can't be identified, it will be thrown away
- If it has no use, it will be thrown away
- If it needs batteries, it will be thrown away
- If it needs bulbs, it will be thrown away
- If it needs a manual, it will be thrown away
- If it's operation isn't inherently obvious, it will be thrown away
- If it was a gift from a faculty member who hasn't been seen since, it will be thrown away
- if it was a gift from the principal, keep it.
What is the CREW Method?
The acronym CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding.
CREW is a cyclical process because one step leads to the next. The
complete cycle is "collection building." The CREW method is a series
of ongoing processes that continuously adds to, removes from, adjusts,
and interprets the collection to fit the needs of users.
A full explanation of The CREW Method is found in the print book The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-sized Public Libraries by Belinda Boone, Texas State Library (1995).
about the CREW method. Read these documents:
CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries (PDF document) (2008) by J. Larson from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Weeding with the CREW Method (ppt document). Powerpoint presentation by B. Boon
Attack with Crew Public (2009) (ppt document). Powerpoint presentation by D. Vogler
Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding (PDF doc) by J.A. Moore
Note that you will get a on-screen default message before the download is completed. The file is safe; it is just a standard procedure for that source.
- Guidelines look like this: 10/3/MUSTIE.
- The first number is the number of years since the book's latest copyright date.
- The second number is the number of year's since the book was checked out.
- So the number in this example, 10/3/MUSTIE, should be interpreted as "Books should be discarded if they are over ten years old or have not been checked out in three years.
- An "X" instead of a number means that that factor "is not applicable to a specific subject."
- MUSTIE means books should be discarded if they are Misleading, Ugly, Superseded by newer editions or better books, Trivial, Irrelevant to patron interests, or easily obtained Elsewhere through interlibrary loan.
What should be done with weeded materials?
Once an item has been de-selected, a few record-keeping cleanup and property identification steps should be completed. Remove the item from the library catalog system. Clearly identify that the item has been removed or discarded from the collection; some libraries use an ink stamp for marking the title page and at least one other location, and on each separate part. If the library has a security system, then remove or erase the security device. The aim is to mark the item(s) in a way that if somehow they are brought back to the library, it is quickly recognized as having been removed and discarded from the collection.
Next is the question of what to do with the unwanted item. Many recommend that if a material is to be truly discarded, if the item is not fit for anyone's use - - it should be thrown in the trash. But nuisance problems can sometimes occur when others notice the items in the trash. One option is to destroy the item, damaging it to point that it is not reusable! It's okay to throw them away. The item has not been used in five or ten years, no one bought it at the book sale, it's not suitable for use by anyone. But what about other situations?
Some other options for consideration:
Recycle old, outdated, unwanted books
Hold a book sale (Lower the cost during the last hours; $1 a bag of books)
Set out leftover books in a 'Free' box
Donate books (Groups like Books for Africa and Books for Soldiers)
Goodwill or Salvation Army stores (Contact to find out if they will accept items)
Jail or prison (Again check to see if they will accept)
Sell books through Powell's Books, or Better World Books
It is usually a good idea to insure that school administrators understand and support the concept of collection weeding and also are aware of the strategies being used to dispose of de-selected items.
Information Power - Program Administration: Principle 6. Ongoing assessment for improvement is essential to the vitality of an effective library media program. (p. 100, 108)
What type of weeder will you be
Are your a pack rat or do you prefer a clean nest?
Will you weed one or two times each year or is this a continuous process?
Awful Library Books
A collection of public library holdings that we find amusing and maybe questionable for public libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection.
Media Center Management - Weeding Your Collections (Lesson 3, Module 6). Alpine Instructional Media Center, UT
Evans Handay, May Alice. Some Special Considerations... By Dewey Section.
Discusses issues about weeding each Dewey section.
Weeding the Collection (Course 4) from Idaho State Library
Overview of weeding process.
Materials Repair / Maintenance
Book Arts Web
Information on bookbinding, repair, and conservation. This site also has links to related sites.
Byers, Fred R. (Oct 2003). Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs - A Guide for Librarians and Archivists (PDF document). National Institute of Standards and Technology and Council on Library and information Service.
Collections Care from Library of Congress
The care of books, photos, videos, and other media in your collections.
Simple Book Repair Manual by the Dartmouth Libraries
Preservation and Preparedness
Conservation OnLine (CoOL) a project of the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries
Conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials.
Disaster Preparedness and Response
Disaster Assistance from Northeast Document Conservation Center
Emergency assistance program for institutions and individuals with damaged paper-based collections.
Related Sections at NEDCC:
Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper
Disaster Response: A Selected Annotated Bibliography from American Library Association
ALA fact sheet with links to disaster preparedness web sites, and to information on training and to other resources, plus a select book bibliography.
Lyall, Jan (1993). Disaster Planning for Libraries and Archives: Understanding the Essential Issues.
A disaster plan is a document which describes the procedures devised to prevent and prepare for disasters, and those proposed to respond to and recover from disasters when they occur. The responsibility for performing these tasks is allocated to various staff members who comprise 'the disaster team'.
Mold and Moisture from the Environmental Protection Agency
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) aims at helping control indoor mold growth.
Preservation and Archives Professionals at U.S. National Archives & Records Administration
Site deals with the preservation and recovery of paper, books, and other materials.