GCLS Weeding Procedure

Why Do Libraries Weed and How Do They Go About It? : A Guide to GCLS Procedure


When a public library deaccessions material, a process also known as “weeding,” commonly they find their community has questions and concerns about the process that determines what materials are taken out of the library’s collection. But with a bit of understanding it becomes clear that weeding is a calculated procedure as important to the health of a library as pulling weeds is to a garden.

The Granville County Library System (GCLS) takes its weeding procedure very seriously. It is important to note that it requires the expertise of librarians who understand GCLS’s community, goals, and collection development policy to implement this nuanced process. Regularly reviewing and updating weeding parameters ensures that the collection remains dynamic, engaging, and aligned with the needs and interests of library patrons, and helps GCLS achieve the following goals:

  1. Encouraging people to check out as many books and library materials as possible.
  2. Ensuring that the books found in our library are current, factual, and in good condition.
  3. Keeping our collections easy to navigate, and our libraries appealing.

In conjunction with their knowledge of the GCLS community, GCLS librarians additionally utilize the professional standard established by CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries when establishing weeding policy. This manual, published by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, has been used by public libraries across the United States for over 30 years for the development of such policy.

CREW most importantly reminds us of the six major benefits of weeding, from which GCLS benefits through our own attention to our collection. The benefits are as follows:

  1. You save space: Shelving space is limited in a public library, and to be used efficiently it should hold books that continuously circulate. Well circulating collections bring in more patrons, cost less in cleaning maintenance, and keep shelves from being overpacked and difficult to navigate.
  2. You save time: You save the time of patrons and staff shelving and finding books. You avoid shelves filled with old books with illegible markings, and frustrated patrons unable to find what they want.
  3. You keep the library appealing: A public library reflects its community and government. Replacing disheveled books encourages patrons to be engaged with the collection, check out more books, and makes a good, neighborly impression.
  4. You enhance your library’s reputation: Weeding ensures that library materials are reliable, up to date, and this builds the public’s trust and encourages library use.
  5. You will keep up with collection needs: CREW provides a continuous process to ensure that collection maintenance never piles up and takes to much time from other staff responsibilities.
  6. You have a constant understanding of the needs of the library collection: Keeping up with CREW keeps librarians aware of sections of the collection that need more purchases and updating, and which collections are being used the most, providing insight into the community’s library use.

With these benefits in mind, which define why weeding a library collection is important, you might be curious about when a book or material is considered for weeding. Keep in mind that a weeded book or material may be replaced immediately, depending on why it was weeded, and that a weeded material may be repurchased at a future date if a newfound demand for that book appears. Some materials may also be kept in exception to these rules due to local significance or other reasons. Library materials are usually weeded or replaced when they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. The book has not circulated in 5 years (3 years for overcrowded sections).
  2. The book is in poor physical condition and has excessive wear.
  3. The book is outdated (i.e. a how-to book for the original iPod).
  4. The book is inaccurate (i.e. a science textbook that has aged).
  5. The book is a duplicate within the collection that does not circulate often.
  6. The format of the book or material is dated (i.e. VHS tapes).
  7. The book is available online or at other libraries in GCLS’s consortium.

These guidelines provide a template to keep our libraries’ collections healthy, in high circulation, and easy to use. The CREW manual provides a much more extensive and nuanced approach than the one outlined here, but the rules and ideas in this guide are at the core of what CREW offers. By using this professional standard, our libraries better engage our patrons, and keep tabs on the wants and needs of our community, two benefits at the core of the GCLS mission.