Weeding is the removal of an item from the library’s active collection for the purpose of either discarding it (recycling as possible) or donating it for reuse to charity. Libraries do not pretend to be permanent depositories of all that has been published, thus weeding the collection becomes as important a part of the maintenance of the collection as does the initial selection.

Weeding requires judgment (as did the original selection) based upon factors which can best be known to the librarians of a given library. Any general rules for weeding must be interpreted and adapted according to the type of library, the type of material being considered for withdrawal, and the librarians doing the withdrawing.

Ideally the process of weeding calls for a degree of participation by the faculty just as does the original selection of materials. The Collection Development Librarian will direct to the faculty’s attention certain selected materials which are being considered for withdrawal for possible specialized input or opinion. As in the selection process, the recommendation of the faculty is critical and will be given full consideration. However, the final decision for withdrawals from the general collection rests with the University Librarian through the Collection Development Librarian. The exception is Government Publications, whose policies are governed by federal law.


Guidelines for Withdrawal

There can be no hard and fast rules that determine which items to withdraw, but there are general guidelines which help the librarian make such decisions. Some of the guidelines against which each item will be evaluated include the following:

  1. Physical condition, age, and obsolescence.
  2. Number of copies in the collection.
  3. Format
  4. Language.
  5. Value to the general collection.
  6. Coverage of the subject by other materials.
  7. Usage, especially within the past five years.

Not every guideline applies to every item and some are more important than others in making the final decision. A fuller explanation of the guidelines follows:

Physical Condition:The most universally accepted criterion for weeding is based upon the physical condition of an item. Consider for withdrawal:

  1. Books of antiquated appearance which might discourage use.
  2. Badly bound books with soft, pulpy paper.
  3. Badly printed works including those with small print, dull or faded print, cramped margins, poor illustrations, paper that is translucent so that the print shows through.
  4. Worn-out volumes whose pages are dirty, brittle, or yellow.
  5. Mutilated books which would cost more to have pages replaced than the price of a replacement.

Age or obsolescence: It is impossible to determine a publication date for weeding purposes. If this were done, classics such as Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare would have no works in a library. Still, it is possible to set some broad guidelines:

  1. Works in the social sciences which were published prior to 1950 and that are not listed in one of the standard literature guides.
  2. Works in the pure sciences published prior to 1960 unless a part of a continuing series, an historical treaties, or a classic title appearing on a standard literature list.
  3. Works in the applied sciences, health professions, and technology should be free of outdated material as new editions appear. Misinformation/inaccurate information is often worse than no information at all.
  4. Works in the humanities and fine arts do not age as quickly as those in other areas. Age is not a strong determinant to withdrawal in these areas.

Number of copies: Certain items are originally purchased as multiple copies in anticipation of heavy use. Others are received as gifts. Often, these duplicate works are withdrawn while retaining one or more copies if the demand remains. These cases are evaluated on an individual basis:

  1. Unneeded duplicate titles.
  2. Duplicates except for date, place, or print.
  3. Inexpensive reprints.
  4. Older editions not historically significant.
  5. Specialized subjects (science, medicine, etc…) especially when the collection holds more extensive or up-to-date information.

Format: In recent years, the library has acquired collections of ebooks in just about every subject area. At this writing (2/2016) the library has approximately 172,000 titles in ebook form. Some of these titles are duplicates of what we have in print. If physical copies are worn and the library has the same title in ebook form, these copies will be candidates for withdrawal. Additionally, for new acquisitions, the ebook format is starting to overtake print in many areas. Thus, even though ebooks are not visible on the shelves, many subject areas of the libraries are covered by this format. The age of the “paperless” library is certainly not with us yet, but things are moving slowly in that direction.

Language: Midwestern State University does offer courses in various foreign languages. Yet, any works in a language other than those listed in the university’s catalog will be considered for withdrawal.

Value to the collection: Certain works, although meeting the guidelines for withdrawal, will not be withdrawn. There are works which are recognized as classics in their respective fields that will be retained. Generally, items relative to the history of Wichita County and the North Texas area, as well as items related to Midwestern State University, will be retained. Likewise, some works which do not fit the curriculum of the university will still be retained because of heavy use by the general public.

Coverage of the subject by other material: Often, depth of the collection will allow older works to be withdrawn. Many general textbooks will be candidates for deletion if more specialized and/or newer works have been added to the collection. On the other hand, if the depth of the collection is limited and no money is available for updating the holdings, these materials may be retained.

Usage: The library’s computer systems as well as the physical due date slips within each volume mean that the library has good information on the use of the collection. Generally, though research has demonstrated that some 20% of an academic library’s collection accounts for about 80% of its requests, Moffett Library will retain a volume if it has circulated within the past five years.


Revised: February 2016