Weeding the library's collection is an essential part of a library's collection development and maintenance; it helps to ensure a current, useful collection. It can be a difficult, even painful, process for some but the weeding process is respectful to the library's mission and its service to the public.
Why do we need to weed?
- To maintain a current, accurate and useful collection;
- To make the best use of space;
- To improve the appearance, appeal and browsability of the collection
- To check for materials that need repair or replacement;
- To get feedback on the collection's strengths and weaknesses.
Aren't we withdrawing perfectly good books, bought with tax money?
A public library's mission is not to save every book purchased for the library--there are archival and research collections to do that. Your collection development policy is likely based on maintaining a current collection that is useful, and of interest, to your customers. Most books in a public library collection have a useful shelf life, just as other products do. When they are purchased they serve the public well, as they are checked out many times. When they are out-of-date, no longer accurate, or not of interest they occupy valuable shelf space needed for more current books. The books served a very useful purpose; the money was well-spent. (Yes, the books were purchased with tax money but so was the police cruiser the city purchased 15 years ago; that has probably been replaced, and is no longer sitting at the police station or city hall, "just in case.")
But some of these books are so good--some of my favorites--even if they are old a little tattered. Shouldn't we keep them?
If you were to visit two libraries who had purchased identical collections, but one weeded while the other did not, you would find the weeded collection was more attractive, accurate, and therefore better used. You may think it counter-intuitive, but circulation does go up after you weed a collection.
When you are shopping for clothes, do you like looking on racks that have garments crammed on to the rack, so you can hardly pull one out (and you'll never get it back in again), and you can't really see what's there because it's so crowded? Some of the nice clothes are hidden by those that nobody wanted. It's the same for a library's shelves--old, worn books make it unpleasant and difficult to browse. Much of the library's "business" is done in browsing, by people who come in to look for "a good book,," and most will not want to browse an old, tattered, outdated collection.
How do we decide what to weed?
There are several criteria that might be used. A method that is often used, the CREW (Continuous Revision, Evaluation, and Weeding) method, bases the decision on the currency of the book, length of time since it was last checked out, and the condition of the book. Each section of the nonficiton will have different criteria. For example, the currency of a book in the medical section is more critical than a book in the section on identifying birds. Length of time since the last checkout is a pretty good predictor for whether or not the book will be checked out again anytime soon; if it hasn't been checked out in five years, there probably is not going to be a stampeded to check it out today or tomorrow!
How much should be weeded?
That will depend on the library, its collection, and how long it has been since the collection was weeded. However, to give you a general guideline, "In Service to Iowa: Public Library Measures of Quality (3rd ed) says "Every item in the library's collection is evaluated for retention, replacement or withdrawal at least every three years to determine its usefulness according to the library's collection development policy. Three percent or more of the collection is withdrawn each year."
What does all this have to do with the trustees' role as policy makers?
The collection development policy should state the overall purpose for the collection. Weeding is a part of that development and maintenance--removing inaccurate and non-useful books to make room for the newer books. Your policy should also address practical issues related to collection development and weeding: What gifts do you accept? How will you dispose of donated items that the library cannot use? How will memorial books be handled in the weeding process? Policies should give the librarian direction when she or he is making selection and weeding decisions.
As with all policies, the collection development policy should be reviewed regularly by the board--at least every three years.
What weeding is required in order to qualify for Enrich Iowa?
Three In Service to Iowa measures relate to weeding (all these measures are Tier II requirements):
40. Every item in the library's collection is evaluated for retention, replacement, or withdrawal at least every three years to determine its usefulness according to the library's collection development policy. Three percent or more of the collection is withdrawn each year.
41. The library's collection is up-to-date. Three percent or more of the collection is added each year.
42. Turnover rate. Turnover rate is the average circulation per item owned. Turnover rate is computed by dividing total annual circulation by total holdings. Figures for holding should reflect both cataloged and uncataloged items except for periodical holdings.
A B C
3.0 or more 2.0-2.9 1.0-1.9