What is weeding?
Weeding in a library is sometimes referred to as “selection in reverse.” It is the ongoing evaluation of books and print journals in a library collection, together with the removal from the collection of those books and journals which are no longer useful or helpful to the library’s customers.
The weeding of books at the MSOE Library refers to the selection of books from the collection that may be candidates for permanent removal. These weeded books are placed in a storage area. They are still available for circulation. The placement of the books in storage allows time for faculty, staff, and students to provide the librarians with input concerning the permanent removal of the books.
Why must libraries weed books?
Weeding is a difficult but essential responsibility in all libraries. It is an important aspect of properly maintaining a viable and relevant library collection. Because the needs of a library’s customers change, weeding is necessary to prevent a library collection from becoming obsolete. At the same time, weeding is necessary because a library has limited physical space. It is simply not possible for a library with limited space to collect and to house all print resources.
Weeding also contributes to good service. When a library does not weed consistently, customers have trouble finding interesting and relevant materials. Removing outdated and worn-out materials makes the library visually attractive and more user-friendly for customers. This point is particularly important here at MSOE where materials quickly become outdated, and where a large number of respondents in previous library surveys complained about old and outdated print materials.
Weeding can be controversial. Library customers sometimes become upset when they realize that print resources have been removed from the collection. For this reason, weeding must be carried out in a manner that encourages input from customers.
Criteria for selecting book weeding candidates
In deciding whether or not a book is a candidate for weeding, the MSOE Library staff attempt to answer the following questions:
- Is the book’s content outdated or largely outdated?
- What do members of the faculty say? Do members of the faculty recommend that the book be kept?
- What do members of the staff say? Do staff members recommend that the book be kept?
- What do students say? Do members of the student body recommend that the book be kept?
- How many times has the book circulated? Has it circulated within the last five years?
- Is the book irrelevant to the needs and interests of customers?
- Has the book been superseded by something else? Has a subsequent edition been added? Is there a better book that should be obtained instead?
- Is the book physically damaged and beyond repair?
- Can selected books be obtained easily and quickly through Interlibrary Loan?
- Is the book requested by other libraries via Interlibrary Loan?
- Is the book considered a “classic” contribution to the field (and therefore, it would be retained)?
- Is the book a second copy? Are there good reasons to retain multiple copies of a book? (e.g., class readings, etc.). Other questions may also be investigated.
What happens to the books that are weeded?
Books that are weeded are placed in the storage room in the library, and in a storage area in the Science Building. The selection of books for possible permanent removal is an ongoing activity. The database record for the book is changed to indicate that the book is in the storage room. During the time that the book is in storage, it is available for circulation. Members of the MSOE community — faculty, staff, and students — are also encouraged to examine the books in order to provide feedback to the librarians as to whether or not the books should be permanently removed from the library collection. To examine weeded books, library customers should consult a librarian.
After a period of time not to exceed one year, if a book in storage has not circulated and if no one has indicated to the librarians that the book should be retained, the book will be permanently removed from the library collection.
Every effort is made to donate a permanently removed book to one of the book donation programs which the MSOE Library is proud to participate in, including Books For Africa and Better World Books. Books not sent to a book donation program are recycled.
What if you see a book that you do not feel should be weeded?
Tell us! Stop by the library and talk with one of the librarians or send us an email!
Because of the many factors that are implicated in the decision to remove a book, each case is different. However, the library staff will seriously consider the wishes of all members of the MSOE faculty, staff, or student body who inform us that the book should remain in the library collection!
To repeat, no book will be permanently removed while it is a candidate for removal. Books will only be permanently removed after the MSOE Community has had a sufficient opportunity to comment on the lists of candidates for removal.
Permanently Removed Books
Last updated: May 2012.