Weeding guide

Weeding your library is the process of regularly removing outdated library resources. This guide covers all aspects of planning and undertaking this important task.


Video- an overview of the weeding process
Reasons for weeding
Benefits of weeding
Responsibility for weeding your library collection
Sections of the library collection to include when weeding
Criteria for weeding library resources
Managing the weeding process
Disposal of weeded items
Weeding flowchart

Video: Weeding your school library

The following video provides an overview of the weeding process.



Reasons for weeding

Weeding (sometimes called deselection or culling) is the regular and ongoing process of removing library resources, which no longer:

  • meet the selection criteria
  • support students’ learning needs
  • are appealing and in good physical condition
  • are being used by your students or teachers.

Benefits of weeding

Although people are often reluctant to dispose of library resources, there are definite advantages to regularly weeding your collection:

  • your collection will be reliable and up-to-date
  • your collection will look attractive and inviting
  • your collection will reflect current thinking and attitudes
  • students and teachers will be able to easily find what they need
  • you will be familiar with your collection’s strengths and gaps

Responsibility for weeding your library collection

Weeding your library is a job you may find will benefit from collaboration with class teachers or subject specialists. Where the final responsibility lies will vary from school to school, depending on how library responsibility has been delegated.

Some points to consider when you are deciding who to ask for assistance include:

  • involvement of teachers at all school levels enhances understanding of the weeding process, and helps build productive collaborations between library and classroom
  • in intermediate and secondary schools, collaborating with specialist subject teachers provides useful feedback on weeding recommendations. This can create opportunities to discuss gaps in curriculum coverage for their teaching area
  • a whole-of-staff, or a departmental, approach may be useful in some circumstances, especially where teachers can work in pairs to weed non-fiction areas in which they have a professional interest
  • criteria need to be clearly understood before the workshop begins.

You (and you team if you have one) can then review the weeding decisions, and note any key gaps for priority purchasing or access.

Sections of the library collection to include when weeding

Any item in your collection, regardless of format (for example print, digital, audio-visual) should be considered for weeding if it meets the criteria listed in the section below. In addition to weeding the fiction and non-fiction collections, remember to check the following for accuracy and currency as well:

  • reference resources
  • websites in your school library catalogue
  • library content on the school intranet and website, including any linked websites
  • your e-book collection
  • curated content / pathfinders
  • the information file (if your library has one)
  • magazine collection

Your automated library system should be able to generate reports to assist with weeding. It can identify:

  • how many times an item has been issued
  • resources which have not been issued for a specified period of time. For example, you may decide to run a report on fiction titles that haven’t been issued in the last three years. You can then decide if they should be promoted or weeded.

Criteria for weeding library resources

The criteria you use to select resources are also your weeding criteria. See selection criteria in Selection guide.

In addition, consider the following:

  • Appearance and physical condition – such as damaged covers / binding, torn or dirty pages, brittle or yellowing pages
  • Amount of use. When was it last issued / accessed? If it hasn’t been used in the last three to five years consider possible reasons (such as the criteria identified above / curriculum cycle / position on shelves). Decide whether to weed or promote.
  • Are there good online resources for this topic, more up-to-date than print material?
  • Publication date – has this area of knowledge changed? For non-fiction titles the publication date you use to guide your weeding practice will vary according to the area of knowledge. For example, science and technical topics date more quickly than the arts and poetry.
  • Relevance to curriculum and student interests – have curriculum and students’ needs and interests changed since these resources were bought?
  • Level of difficulty – Can your students read it?
  • Changing attitudes – does this item reflect the attitudes of its period and to what extent are those attitudes still considered acceptable?
  • Local New Zealand history material – consider carefully before weeding. New Zealand material is often published in small print runs, and may be difficult to replace. If beyond the reading level of your students, re-locate in the teacher resource collection.

Managing the weeding process

Weeding is a regular and ongoing process. You may choose to weed the collection in its entirety or weed specific sections on a rotational basis.
Your weeding policy should be included in your guiding statement on the School Library Collection.

Some points to remember during the weeding process:

  • The weeding process creates discard piles and brings to light other collection issues. You may also have piles for mending, promotion, recataloguing, moving to the teachers resource collection and replacement.
  • Delete weeded items from the library online catalogue to ensure accurate reporting for the financial audit.
  • Stamp resources ‘Withdrawn’ to ensure that they will not find their way back into your collection.
  • Use link checker software to review the currency of each URL for checking websites on the school library catalogue or intranet.

Disposal of weeded items

  • Disposing of books can be a sensitive issue, and the agreed options should be documented in your school library management statement.
  • School staff need to be aware of your school’s policy on disposal, so any discussion around this can be open and questions clarified.
  • Most material weeded from the library will not be suitable for other libraries, or even to donate to students, in New Zealand or overseas.
  • Items at the wrong level for your students may be offered to another school if appropriate for their students.
  • Pre-1940 children’s books may be offered to the National Library for the Dorothy Neal White Historical Collection
  • For further information on this, contact a Library Adviser on 0800 LIBLINE (0800 542 5463).
  • Non-fiction of high quality and early New Zealand material may be offered to local public libraries or historical societies.
  • Low-use items which are still in reasonable condition can be offered to local fundraising book fairs, or sold to secondhand bookshops.
  • For some books permanent disposal or recycling is necessary

Weeding flowchart

You can download the weeding flowchart below, which provides an overview of key steps in the weeding process.

Image: Rakka by donna hayword(s) on Flickr

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