Why We Weed


People have been noticing the rather full book trucks in the front of the library. Old, worn library books stamped discard, for sale at a dollar each. Hey, why are you getting rid of these? This is the answer:

First of all why do we call it weeding? Weeding as defined by American Heritage Student Dictionary is to remove plants that have become troublesome, or useless. Just substitute outdated, damaged, or materials that are not supporting our programs for plants. We weed to keep the collection accessible and current.

In her article 10 Tips for an Outstanding Children’s Collection, Nell Colburn  states: “An outstanding children’s collection is never an accident. It is the result of careful management, including strategic planning, conscientious budgeting, teamwork and ongoing evaluation.” As part of this ongoing evaluation we withdraw books from the children’s collection by asking some of these questions:

“Is the book Science Experiments for Boys really current?”
“Are our titles on the Soviet Union more than 8 years old? Whoops, I meant Russia.”
“Any brontosauruses in that dinosaur book?”
“Is the information on AIDS current?”

Because of the special mission of the children’s collection, serving both children and graduate students we may keep some outdated but historically valuable children’s materials. Students can find these titles in the Claudia Lewis collection and they are identified with CL in their call numbers. We also look at the circulation of a book. How many times has it gone out of the library? Is it a shelf sitter that no one has picked up in five years? Do we have five copies of a once exciting novel that two copies would be enough of today? According to Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning , one essential part of the mission of a library media program is to maintain a collection of materials that is evaluated and updated regularly. Weeding is just one of the techniques for growing a healthy collection.

Criteria for Withdrawing Materials from the Collection

Having outdated or inaccurate materials in the collection discourages use, gives a false impression of the adequacy of the collection, wastes the time of the staff, and obstructs users in their search for useful materials. We use the following criteria from Information Power: Guidelines for School Media Programs (pp 79-80)  for removing items from the collection:

  • Physical deterioration
  • Obsolescence and appropriateness for the current needs of the school community.
  • Duplicate copies
  • Out-of-date materials
  • Materials no longer used or of slight utility, e.g., almanacs, yearbooks, and encyclopedias that have been superceded by newer editions
  • Materials in which any significant portion of the information is out dated.


We welcome gifts of books and materials to the Bank Street College Library. We use the same collection development criteria when evaluating gifts as we do in our own acquisitions. Do these materials support the mission of the Library? Do they support the curriculum of the College or School for Children? Are they duplicate copies of materials already owned? Are they in good condition? If we are unable to accession gifts into our collection we put them out on the book sale truck. The monies received from these sales are used to support the programs of the library.

1 Colburn, N. (1994, September). 10 tips for an outstanding children’s collection. (cover story). School Library Journal, 40(9), 130.
2 American Association of School Librarians. (1998). Information power: Building partnerships for learning. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
3 American Association of School Librarians. (1988). Information power: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Reprinted with kind permission from Lisa Von Drasek, Children’s Librarian.

Reference librarian at Bank Street College Library.

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Posted in News, Policy

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