Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Weeding 101

It's the part of our job most of us dread-weeding time!  If you are one of those people who doesn't have much experience with weeding or cringes every time you have to start, here are some helpful hints to get you started (or keep you going).

First of all, weeding is not personal.  The world is not going to end because you had to withdraw a Judy Blume book from your collection.

Weeding is a necessity if you want to purchase new items.  Eventually you will run out of shelf space.

For us, shelves that aren't totally full tend to circulate better than shelves that are packed full of books.  Personally, I think this has to due with the laws of supply and demand-if it looks like somebody is using a section, others will want to also.

There are always some items you will not weed, even if they don't get the stats you want.  At our branch we don't weed award winners (Newbery, Caldecott, etc.), because even if they aren't checked out, they are frequently used in the building by teachers and college students.

Decide on your parameters before you look at the section.  Otherwise, once you get there it is very easy to want to keep everything and it becomes really easy to rationalize. 

You can use different parameters for different sections.  After all, every section circulates differently.  For example, in our jfic area, a book needs to go out five times in one year.  So if it has been on the shelf for five years, it needs to circulate 25 times.  In our juvenile book on cd section, it just needs to circ one time.  These are numbers that we came up with for our collection through years of trial and error.  They may not work for everyone.

Condition of the items is important.  If a book is falling apart, if the spine is broken, or if the cover is torn, your customers will not want to take the item home.  If it isn't something that you can easily fix through mending, that item should be pulled and either weeded or replaced.  A good example of this section is our board book collection.  We rarely have to weed due to low circ.  It is frequently weeded because of the condition of the books.

You may notice weird things while weeding that you will want to change.  For example, we used to have really high numbers of jfic books that needed to be weeded, even though we had space on the shelves for them.  We switched the length of time that we keep our new books labeled as such from 6 months to 9 months and this has made a big difference in circulation for both collections.

As a side note, many people suggest displays to keep low circulating titles from being weeded.  If this is something that you want to try, you need to be very proactive with it.  After all, one circulation of an item will not help most of us.  It needs to be more of an ongoing thing.  Two ways to make this work are to highlight an entire collection for a length of time, such as poetry in April.  Otherwise make your display and keep a list of what you want on that display (we can do this right through our ILS).  Then, as the items are returned, put them back on the display.  Since most items go out for a couple of weeks, you will want this to be a long-term display of at least a month or two.

For a more comprehensive list, you may want to check out the Sunlink Weed of the Month Archives.  They used to highlight nonfiction collections monthly, but now have one big list.  A good overview, especially of nonfiction, can be found on the Arizona State Library site.  For an interesting take on how much to weed, you may want to check out a presentation from PLA 2010 on relative use statistics.


  1. I love to weed! I think it's one of the few times in our jobs that we can see immediate, tangible results. Weeding made a HUGE difference in the circulation at my previous library. We went from a collection stuffed with books from the '80s to a streamlined, current collection and circulation skyrocketed. I AM A BELIEVER.

    1. Me too! I just need time to do it. Plus, I have fun with stats and since we started using Relative Use, it has made a huge difference in our nonfiction collection.


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