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Collection Development Policies for the USA University Libraries: Weeding

Weeding Guidelines

Because libraries are not TARDISes, we are not "bigger on the inside;" we have limited space and cannot be warehouses of books. Instead, librarians strive to maintain vital collections that are used by our patrons, making weeding or "deselection" a necessary part of our jobs. Removing materials from the collection when they are in poor shape, no longer used, contain outdated information, or are no longer relevant to the university curriculum helps ensure that the library collections remain relevant and, most of all, used.

Weeding Responsibilities

While the Marx Library Executive Director bears the final responsibility for all weeding projects, the Assistant University Librarian for Collections and the liaison librarians carry out the actual work of weeding the collection. The liaisons consult with faculty representatives from their departments when needed.


The Marx Library uses the following criteria when weeding the collection:

  1. Physical condition: Books that are damaged beyond repair, are badly deteriorated, or are moldy will be removed from the collections, If such books are still circulating widely, however, the library will endeavor to replace them.
  2. Duplicates: Because of space limitations, the library cannot keep duplicate copies of a book unless there is a compelling need to do so (for example, a book that is heavily used across a university-wide program such as the Common Read/Common World.)
  3. Usage: While it will never be the only factor, lack of circulation or browsing use may be considered when weeding.
  4. Currency: Since part of the purpose of any library collection is to be relevant and current, outdated materials or materials that are superseded by new editions may be weeded. We understand that some disciplines use historical information and texts while doing research and will take that into consideration when considering a book for weeding.
  5. Completeness: Incomplete multi-volume sets may be considered as candidates for weeding, especially if the material is not circulating.
  6. Uniqueness: The library will not weed materials that are unique to its collections.
  7. Relevancy to the Curriculum: Materials that support courses that are no longer taught at the university may be weeded to make way for material that addresses the needs of the current curriculum.
  8. Format: If a format is obsolete, the library may weed items in that format. We will make every endeavor to replace frequently used items in a more current format.

Special Considerations

Reference materials: Reference materials may be weeded from the print collection based on amy of the criteria above but may also be weeded if the material is available in electronic format.

Serials: While we continue to maintain some serials in print, the preference is for the electronic format; titles may be weeded if they are available on platforms librarians consider to be stable for us, such as JSTOR and Project Muse.

Government Documents: The Marx Library is a Federal Depository and, as such, must follow the Federal Depository Library Program's guide for Weeding a Depository Collection.

Thoughts on Weeding

Deselection, commonly referred to as "weeding," in libraries is a touchy subject for librarians and patrons alike, but there are good reasons why libraries need to weed their collections, including the following:

  1. Space considerations: the library doesn't have unlimited space, so librarians, in order to make space for new material, find that it is necessary to weed the collection.
  2. Currency: it's important for a university library collection to be relevant and usable. In order to ensure that, librarians need to remove material that is outdated, obsolete, or contains incorrect information if the material has no historical value.
  3. Circulation: a crowded library makes it difficult for users to find the books they need. Judicious weeding actually increases circulation by making browsing and finding books easier.
  4. Damage to the collection: if materials are damaged beyond repair, have mold, or are otherwise in poor condition, they are unusable and need to be removed from the collection.
  5. Alignment with the curriculum and research interests.


Resources on Weeding