Best Practices for Weeding

(Download PDF)


The American Library Association writes that “regardless of the type of institution, collection maintenance and weeding are important components of a library’s collection management system and are often related to the goals and mission of the organization.” This document addresses considerations for weeding (i.e., deaccessioning) for libraries that are part of a shared print program. Typically, libraries can view weeding from a singular standpoint, which involves determining what its very own optimal collection should contain, based on authority, currency, usage, diversity, and needs. In fact, most academic libraries view collection maintenance (including weeding) as a process driven by teaching faculty and one that reflects the college/university’s mission, goals, and curricula needs. However, collection management must be seen through a different lens when a library becomes part of a shared print program, as its collecting and weeding policies and procedures now must take into account collaborative stewardship, as part of the larger shared print collection. The role of the shared print program must be helping member libraries to make this transition, through information and coordination. 

Best Practices for Programs 

  • Help member libraries find resources for the continual care of physical materials, if deemed necessary. 
  • With digital materials, where collection maintenance includes troubleshooting dead or broken links and evaluating these links for accuracy, currency, and relevancy, act as an information clearinghouse or coordinator/technical advisor for member libraries.
  • Verify that titles are held by the program and that the verified title is available per retention commitments.
  • Facilitate transfers between member libraries, in order to discourage discards.

Best Practices for Member Libraries 

  • Factor its shared print program’s (SPP) retention status into weeding decisions. 
  • Create a grid of criteria for consideration, including circulation, research and curricular relevance, physical condition, number of WorldCat holdings, and availability of digital access. 
  • If a local retention commitment is clearly out of scope for the SPP,  notify the SPP to see if the commitment can be withdrawn.
  • Factor in other member libraries’ retentions when considering the local collection. If a title is retained in the SPP and is not scarce, it is likely to be low circulating, which may mean an investment in cataloging and processing capacity in more impactful activities. In such a case, notify the SPP to see if the retention can be withdrawn.
  • When communicating with stakeholders about weeding, emphasize shared print and access connections, and communicate early and often with stakeholders to socialize and normalize weeding as healthy collection maintenance. Draft a description for how the space gained by deaccessioning will be used to benefit the library community (e.g., space for new books or group work).
  • When communicating with stakeholders about weeding, emphasize the library’s core value of continued access (via ILL) in all communication. Emphasize that ILL offers quick fulfillment.
  • When communicating with stakeholders about weeding, speak and write about weeding in the context of the shared print program (e.g., framing the project as one based on comparing the local collections against the shared collection and shifting from an ownership mindset to an access mindset). Put the shared print program in the context of national or international programs and the Collections Lifecycle. 
  • Avoid speaking or writing about weeding as though it were independent of the shared print program and the Collective Collection. Highlight the role the SPP is playing in the project (e.g., identifying titles to deselect, using discards to fill gaps in retained holdings, providing access to materials post-weeding through ILL).
  • When communicating with stakeholders about weeding, create tailored communications strategies for stakeholder groups with strong attachments to print collections. Establish workflows for accepting feedback, or a formal body tasked with discussing needs and concerns with users. Explain superseded editions and multiple copies since stakeholders seeing a list of titles out of context may not know that there is a newer edition or another copy available.
  • When communicating with stakeholders about weeding, provide updates on how many items have been contributed to other institutions.*
  • Offer to contribute weeded materials to shared print initiatives wherever possible. Always donate scarcely held titles to the program.*
  • If contributing the weeded materials to another library or organization, in communications highlight the benefits this will bring to users/the scholarly community at large (e.g., if materials are being contributed to shared print, this will ensure they are preserved and available into the future; if they are being digitized by another organization, this will ensure scholars have new, more convenient modes of access to the content they need).
  • Consider disposal options for potentially weeded materials that cannot be used by other member libraries. Project which method(s) of disposal will apply (e.g., book sales, recycling, landfill). Prepare to communicate these decisions to stakeholders.
  • When offering titles to the program or its member libraries, indicate clearly the titles that you are offering, their condition, library contact information (with a departmental email address or monitored account for follow up), logistics (e.g., who will process for withdrawal, who will pay for shipping), and the expiration date for the offer.
  • When offering titles to the program or its member libraries, prepare pull lists from accepted offers and mark items as withdrawn. Withdraw them from inventory and/or the catalog. Update holdings in WorldCat, PAPR, and other systems as necessary. 

*Follow state/institutional rules (e.g., in Virginia, libraries can transfer to another Virginia state institution if the correct paperwork is filed; in all other cases, it has to be sent to be auctioned by the state.)

Additional Resources

American Library Association. Collection Maintenance and Weeding. January 2018.

The Rosemont Shared Print Alliance and the Partnership for Shared Book Collections Advocacy Working Group. “Weeding Communication in the Collections Lifecycle” (contains useful information about communications, and things to avoid that can undermine trust): Weeding Communication in the Collections Lifecycle.pdf

Last Updated July 2023