WA Secretary of State Blogs

Weeding the Library Garden

admin_WeedImages_commontansy5From the desk of Mary Paynton Schaff

Fall might seem an odd time to think about weeding, but in the world of libraries weeding happens all the time. Weeding is the term libraries use to describe removing books from a collection. And contrary to what one might assume about the State Library’s collections, books don’t just come here to gather dust in perpetuity. We weed like other research libraries weed, and a book might find its way out the door or moved into another collection for a variety of reasons.

1)      The book no longer fits within our collection development guidelines or library mission

2)      The book contains outdated or inaccurate information

3)      We have more copies than we need

4)      The information contained in the book can be more easily be found online

5)      The collection is out of shelving space

6)      The book has not been used in many years

7)      The book is too damaged to be useful any longer and new copies can be found to purchase

Currently our librarians are weeding our Reference Collection and Northwest Collection and finding new homes for books that no longer meet our needs. What happens to books that are weeded out of these central library collections? The State Library’s branches, including prison and hospital libraries, have first dibs on the central library’s discards, followed by other Olympia-area state government branches. If a book can’t find a home in any of those places, we dispose of the items through the Washington State Surplus program. Materials that are officially surplussed can be donated to other locations, including officially designated rehabilitation workshops such as Goodwill. A significant portion of weeded materials are destroyed when none of the surplus qualifications are met.

Other Washington State Library collections like the State and Federal Depository programs have different rules for weeding materials based on the rules that govern their operation. Weeded copies from these State Library collections may find their way to local state or federal depository libraries near you.

For an amusing look at the world of library weeding, including the importance of keeping library collections relevant and up-to-date, check out Awful Library Books.

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One Response to “Weeding the Library Garden”

  1. Will Stuivenga Says:

    Will Manley wrote an amusing column on the topic of weeding not too long ago: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/treasure-or-trash-heap