Weeding your library collection

What is Weeding?

Weeding is the periodic and continual evaluation of your library's resources with the goal of removing obsolete, damaged, and rarely used books. Weeding ensures that your library's materials are useful, attractive, and accessible to your patrons. Every library's print collection is limited by the space available, and collections must change over time to reflect changes in the community and in the library's goals.

Avoiding a “Musty” Library

Answer these questions to help you determine if a book should stay or go.

  1. Is the book misleading? Is the book factually inaccurate or out-of-date?
  2. Is the book worn-out – beyond repair or rebinding?
  3. Has the book been replaced by a new edition or better source?
  4. Is the book trivial, meaning there is no discernible literary or scientific merit?
  5. Has the book become irrelevant in that it's no longer pertinent to the needs and interest of your organization or its readers?
  6. Does the book cover a topic that is easily researched from a more readily available source?

Why Weeding Can Be Difficult

By nature, librarians love their books. There is often an unwritten rule that books are sacred. It's hard to convince anyone that the discarding of a book is necessary. It's also difficult to find the time, energy, and resources to go through the shelves, book-by-book, to decide what to keep and what to weed. Remember that good weeding makes a library more user-friendly. It is a natural part of maintaining a healthy library.

Set a Policy

A weeding policy provides a point of reference for staff to consult when deciding to acquire, discard, or reject an item. The guidelines in your policy allow you to make more consistent and informed decisions. They provide continuity during times of staff turnover or funding changes. In addition, your policy serves as a source of reinforcement if discarding (or adding) an item is challenged by a patron.

Examples of Policy Criteria

  • Content: Is the content of the book relevant to your collection goals?
  • Copyright: Is the content outdated?
  • Condition: Is the book extremely worn?
  • Circulation History: Is the book being checked out?
  • Currency: Is there newer information available?

Survey Your Collection

Inspect Materials as They Are Returned

The easiest form of weeding is to review materials as they are checked in or checked out. Look for worn edges, broken spines, torn pages, etc. Obviously dated materials can also be removed at this time or set aside for later review.

Schedule a Collection Review

To truly assess your entire collection, a rotation review schedule should be put into place. Plan to audit your entire collection over the course of a year. Begin in areas that are frequently changing, such as the natural sciences, applied sciences, and pop culture.

Use an Automated Comparison

Use our free Collection Analysis and Planning (CAP) tool. Upload your library's MARC records and within one to two hours, you will have access to reports that analyze and organize your collection by Dewey number, copyright page, and more. Review our reports against your criteria to weed obsolete items.

Consider Exceptions

Books that you may want to keep:

  • Classic titles
  • Titles on local history or by local authors
  • School publications (like yearbooks)
  • Titles on current reading lists
  • Out-of-print titles that are still useful and irreplaceable
  • Biographical titles


Sell: A sale takes time to organize, but you may be able to bring in funds to purchase new books and materials.

Donate: Gift your unwanted, duplicate, or irrelevant titles to charity. Do not donate damaged or severely worn pieces.

Destroy: Articles too damaged to sell or donate should be destroyed. Be discreet when discarding obsolete titles, as many people have strong feelings about discarding books. Clearly mark all discards.

Note: Before you begin discarding weeded books, check your library's approved disposal policy.

Source: This page was compiled using information from the California Department of Education, the Texas State Library Association CREW Method, and the Arizona State Library Collection Development Training Program.