Lora Wendy Alligood
Weeding Library Media Material
October 1, 2012
While many people may view a library collection as something that just gets larger over
time, best practices contradict this mistaken belief. A library collection cannot be allowed to
spread haphazardly like an English flower garden; its growth should be like that of a bonsai tree,
slow and deliberate with shaping from frequent and judicial pruning. The Walton County (Public
School System) Selection Policy states, “A good collection development plan must include
weeding. The process of weeding is a key part of assessing the collection. It helps keep
collections relevant, accurate, and useful; and it facilitates more effective use of space in the
library media center” (Collection evaluation policy, 2012).
Perhaps the standard for collection management is Larson‟s CREW method. CREW is an
acronym for Continuous Review, Evaluation and Weeding. As the name implies, it is an ongoing process rather than a yearly task. Larson and many others suggest beginning with the
facility‟s mission statement. That is to be the benchmark against which all acquisitions and all
removals must be measured. If there is no mission statement, there is no clearly established
direction. A mission statement should …declare what students will be able to do as a result of
their learning in the library space (Zmuda, 2011). According to Colleen MacDonell (2001), a
collection development policy and a weeding policy are essential documents for any library.
Policy should be a guide for acquisition of materials that align with standards for student
achievement, content, reading levels, targeted interests, and identified gaps in the collection
(McNair, 2012). Conversely, policy should also dictate which materials should be removed from
the collections and by whom as well as how they are to be handled after removal. Walton
County Public Schools‟ policy states, “Although the final decision to withdraw materials from
the library media collection is one that is made by the library media specialist, subject area
faculty members may be invited toreview the items marked for withdrawal. Withdrawn materials
should not generally be sent to classrooms, since the same standard of quality should apply to
other instructional materials as well” (Collection evaluation policy, 2012).
Weeding policies generally include many of the same considerations. These include: the
attainability of more suitable materials through Internet, interlibrary loan, and budget constraints;
the relationship of a particular item to others in the collection; and the future usefulness of an
item. CREW guidelines use the acronym MUSTIE (Larson). Each letter stands for a negative
factor that would make an item eligible for weeding. M is for misleading or factually inaccurate.
U is for ugly indicating that a book or other item is unattractive and beyond repair; the old saying
about not judging a book by its cover is not true when weeding. One librarian found that kids are
not likely to check out a book that has a plain cover, has small words, or looks old, (Martin).
However, age does not automatically indicate a good candidate for weeding: “Copyright date
should be considered; however, do not make a decision to weed based solely on the copyright
date of the material. Some older material may be considered classic or may be of great historical
value” (McNair). S stands for superseded by a better resource. T and I are for trivial or irrelevant.
E means the material/information may be obtained expeditiously or elsewhere. Another
consideration should be usage; something that has not been circulated in the last five or ten years
may be considered for removal. Any potentially offensive materials such as those that are biased
or portray stereotypes should be considered good weeding candidates. Usefulness may also be a
factor; does the material “contain information which is inaccessible because they lack a table of
contents, adequate indexing, and/or search capabilities” (McNair)?
The weeding policy should apply not only to the books, but to all library holdings
including furniture and technology (Zmuda, 2011). The modern library is moving toward a
learning commons format with more comfortable chairs, more tables, various types of learning
spaces and a variety of tools. According to Joyce Valenza (2006), the future the library will be a
blend of 40% physical and 60% virtual. “The emerging formula [is] 60 percent less on print, 60
percent more on electronic resources and e-readers” (McNair, 2012).
Despite these benefits and the necessity of weeding, libraries often face criticism from the
community when books and other materials must be discarded. Good public relations are vital in
turning “perceptions of the weeding event from a negative „purge‟ to a much more positive
„collection refreshment‟ event”(Booth, 2009). A disposal policy is an effective defense against
public outcry. Materials that are in good condition can be sold or given to charities such as the
Salvation Army. Those that are in poor condition should be recycled or destroyed. However,
“none of the four major methods of disposal - destroying, recycling, selling and giving away – is
without its drawbacks” (Alternatives to dumping). Destroying leads to complaints. Recycling
may pay very little and pick up may not be available. Selling is labor intensive and may not yield
much monetary gain. Both selling and giving away usually require library marks to be
Since most librarians love books and are somewhat loath to discard anything that
mightone day be of use, McEwen (2012) cautions against harboring for personal sentimental
reasons and retaining large sets of dormant books. Finally, while it must be done and in
accordance with written policy, there is a time when weeding is wrong; in cases where a patron
requests that a particular book be removed from the shelves for personal reasons, the selection
policy, which should be reviewed every few years by the board, guards against such instances
(Scales).Weeding has six major benefits: it creates space, saves time, makes the collection more
appealing, enhances the library‟s reputation, helps keep up with collection needs and provides
feedback concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the collection (Larson, 2008). So, go
ahead; judge that book by its cover!
Alternatives to dumping.(1975), American Libraries 6(3), 144.
Booth, A. (2009). Fahrenheit 451?: a 'burning question' on the evidence for book withdrawal.
Health information and libraries journal, 26, 161-165.
Collection evaluation policy: Weeding library media material. (2012). Retrieved from
Larson, J, ed. " CREW: A weeding manual for modern libraries." Texas State Library and
Archives Commission. N.p., 2008. Web. 19 Sep 2012. Retrieved
Martin, L. J. (2011). Needing a weeding: How judging a book by its cover can help. Library
mediaconnection, 30(2), 18.
McEwen, I. (2012). Separating the wheat from the chaff. Teacher Librarian, 39(4), 33-34.
McNair, E. (2012). Print to digital: Opportunities for choice. Library Media Connection, 30(6),
Scales, P. When weeding is wrong.School Library Journal, 55(11). 18.
Valenza, J. (Performer) (2006). Library fest with joycevalenza [Web series episode]. In EdTech
Zmuda, A. (2011, F). Six steps to saving your school library program. School library monthly,
27( 5), 45-8.