Monday 4 June 2012

Heather's thoughts on weeding:

I was recently on an interview panel where a lot of discussion took place on previous experience in weeding and collection management. Half way through the day, one of the non library panel members finally said 'Can I clear something up? What is weeding?'

It's amazing to think of how something that is such a big issue in public librarianship is not really considered or on the radar of the majority of people who visit our libraries. Equally amazing is the range of opinions out there among library staff on what weeding means, what should be weeded, where weeded items should go, who should be weeding etc etc etc.

I have accidentally stepped into the minefield on many occasions, upsetting some and being thanked by others for taking action.

It is so confusing though isn't it? We delete books because they haven't been read enough, we also delete books because they've been read too much. We have obligations to delete out of date information, but also an obligation to provide access to historical information. Our customers want the latest books but can't bear to see our oldest and most used copies of the classics in the recycling bin. We need to expand our collections but we also need to expand our study space and there's only so much room!

I'd love to hear from anyone who has a story to tell about their collection and its maintenance. Have you seen an innovative way to recycle old books? Do you have a great system in place where everyone can get involved in giving the collection the love it deserves? Do you live by MUSTIE weeding guidelines or have you seen something even better?


  1. I'd love to hear some stories too, about what has worked and what hasn't. I recently did the ALIA Select & Acquire course, and learned the MUSTIE technique.

    We're currently doing a VHS collections project at the moment (yes, we still have a lot of VHS in our collection!)

    We tend to share the decision-making process with our academics and researchers. If they feel that a particular item is still of relevance to the teaching curriculum or research areas, then we'll try to find a way to convert the material or to buy an equivalent in DVD format, especially as many of the teaching spaces at the University no longer support VHS.

    However, I'm of the opinion that if it hasn't been used for a number of years, then its probably not relevant, so it shouldn't be in the collection. If people haven't been able to access it due to the format, but if there hasn't been any request for the same material in a different format, then it's still probably no longer relevant.

    This also raises the related issue of making sure collection development policies match up with current client and user needs. If you find lots of things getting weeded out, it might be time to have a rethink about these profiles and updating them. Or, it might be just a case of things being too well-used, in which case, it puts forward an opportunity to buy some more copies! And let's face it- who doesn't love borrowing a brand new library book??!?

  2. We have just had a leadership session on ethics in our library at UWS. This posting has made me think not about the confusion of weeding but about the ethical challenges that Heather has raised. I think this is what makes us all shift a little uneasy in our seats when this topic is raised.