Weeding Project

Fertile fields cannot produce good crops as long as the weeds are not cleared away. (Taoist Proverb, Allen article)


"To ensure a quality library collection, weeding is as critical as selection of new materials." (Allen, pg. 32)

I work in a small library with a lot of books. We have over 16,000 titles for 200 students! At first this seems wonderful but then you notice the over crowded shelves, the narrow aisles, and very few students being able to locate the books they are looking for. The average age of our library collection is 1994 which indicates that there has been some weeding done in the past. In order to freshen up the library collection even more and to make the non-fiction section more appealing I must do some serious weeding. Thankfully for this project I will be weeding the four sections of the non-fiction collection that supports the Science 2 curriculum. The average age of the books in these sections is 1993/1994. Unfortunately I am not able to generate any circulation records since our program does not keep record of this information. The weeding of these sections will help me get a clear sense of which books we have and what kind of books need to be purchased.


I work in an independent school and there are no policies within our association. I don't know what the former librarian had as policies since I have found nothing in writing. I have decided to create my own policy regarding weeding. I have created this policy based on the Moore Article and the Surrey School District Teacher-Librarian Handbook.

Blessed Sacrament Weeding Policy:

1. The teacher-librarian is responsible for weeding the collection since he/she has an understanding of the collection and the school's curriculum.

2. Weeding should take place frequently and consistently throughout the year. Ideally the collection should be weeded in small sections on a weekly basis. The CREW method should be used to help initiate the weeding process.

CREW= Continuous Review, Evaluation and Weeding.

3. To help put the CREW method into action and to help decide which books should be discarded the MUSTIE approach should be used.

Misleading and/or factually inaccurate:

Ugly (worn out beyond mending or rebinding):

Superseded by a new edition or a better source;

Trivial (of no discernable literary or scientific merit);

Irrelevant to the needs and interests of your community;

Elsewhere (the material may be easily borrowed from another source).

4. The following table can be used to help justify weeding choices. The reasons indicated in the table are similar to MUSTIE but provide further options for weeding titles.

5. The following materials should not be discarded:

a. Classics and award winners- except when a more attractive edition is available or when there are too many copies on the shelf;

b. Titles appearing on standard, current core bibliographies;

c. Unique content, format, illustrations;

d. Materials that are not subject to rapid change such as:

Fairy and folk tales



Fine arts

Sports with the exception of rule books

Poetry and literature



6. Consult guidelines by Dewey Class- click here and refer to page 6 for further information.

7. Process for removal:

a. Remove the discarded material from the automated system

b. Remove or draw through barcode

c. Write or stamp DISCARD in several places

d. Materials can be offered to teachers. Place materials in a box in the staff room for a period of two weeks.

e. Recycle discarded books

Data, Weeding Process and Approach

The data used to help me weed through the four Science 2 curriculum sections can be found here in my collection analysis. Unfortunately my automated system does not keep circulation records. This is a little disappointing since this is added information that can help in deciding which books need to be weeded. I must rely solely on qualitative data that I collected and the physical state of the books. The MUSTIE approach and the table that I created has helped me decide which books need to go.

As mentioned in my weeding policy I used MUSTIE as an initial approach but I found it very helpful to create a checklist type of table to help me make quick decisions. This table alllows me to have a paper trail of weeded materials if ever I am questioned about my weeding practices. The reasons for weeding a title listed in the table are from Bishop (p.121). I find that this list gives more details and is a little more user-friendly than the MUSTIE approach.

Click here to see a sample of the table.

Discarded Titles and Rationale

To remove a title from my automated system, I simply delete the title from the system and that's it. In total I discarded 27 books from the Science 2 curriculum sections. I used the table that I created to justify my reason for weeding the books. The average age of the books discarded was 27 years old, most books were in fair phyical conditon but looked very dated. Below are 10 titles that I weeded and I included the reasons from the table.

10 Weeded Titles and Rationale

1. Gunston, B. (1980). L'eau. Paris, Montreal: Éditions Études Vivantes.

  • 31 years old

  • Topics no longer of interest- showing old technology

  • Inappropriate reading level- too difficult

2. Bernaert, C. (1971). L'air. Tournai: Éditions Gama.

  • 40 years old

  • Unattractive appearance- very dated looking pictures

  • Inappropriate reading level- too difficult

3. Jennings, T. (1988). Ce qui flotte ou coule. Tournai: Éditions Gama.

  • 23 years old

  • Unattractive appearance- dated pictures and information poorly organised

  • Poor physical condition- pages are yellowing and smelly

4. Ducrocq, A. (1983). La vie de l'eau. France: Fernand Nathan.

  • 28 years old

  • Poor physical condition- spine is coming apart

  • Inappropriate reading level- too difficult

  • Unattractive appearance- dated pictures and damaged cover

5. Art-Studium. (1979). Animaux sauvages de la savane africaine. Spain: Unide.

  • 32 years old

  • Inappropriate reading level- too difficult

  • Unattractive appearance- dated pictures and information poorly organised

  • Poor physical condition- musty smell

6. Ardley, N. (1974). Les oiseaux. Paris: Édition des Deux Coqs d'Or.

  • 37 years old

  • Inappropriate reading level- too difficult

  • Unattractive appearance- dated pictures

7. Kelada, Sami. (1980). Les abeilles attaquent. Montreal: Éditions Aquila.

  • 31 years old

  • Inappropriate reading level- far too difficult

  • Unattractive appearance- black and white drawings

  • Topic no longer of interest- shows swarms of bees attacking people if resembles an old Sci Fi movie!

8. Barthelemy, G. (1974). Comment vivent les mammifères. France: Fernand Nathan

  • 37 years old

  • Poor circulation- the book looks like it has never been used

  • Topics no longer of interest- goes into depth about mammal groups which is too advanced

9. Bennett, D. (1982). Les animaux sauvages. Paris: Éditions G.P.

  • 29 years old

  • Poor physical condition- spine is damaged

  • Unattractive appearce- cover page is dirty and dated looking

10. Avenous, P. (1987). Les animaux des pays chauds. Paris: Édition des Deux Coqs d'Or.

  • 24 years old

  • Poor physical condition- spine is damaged

  • Unattractive appearance- cover page is dirty and has musty smell

I deleted all 27 titles from the automated system and then I blacked out the barcode and wrote 'discard' inside the books. I have placed all the 27 weeded titles in a box in the staff room. If they are not taken by the end of next week then I will recycle them.


I can truthfully say that I enjoyed this activity even though I was not looking forward to "throwing away" books. As a teacher, I have amassed many many boxes of files just in case I need to teach a lesson on a particular topic. As a teacher-librarian it is even more difficult for me discard books especially the books that are not obviously dated or damaged.

When visitors come to the library they are always amazed that we have so many books. At first, I was very proud to manage such a large collection for such a small school. However after reading all the articles and discussions I can see that more is definitely not better. The quality of the books is the most important things. I long to have space to breathe in the library especially in the non-fiction section. The shelves are so overcrowded that students have difficult finding books and pulling them off the shelves. It would be nice to have some open shelf space to display new non-fiction titlles. I really like the guideline of having the shelves only half full. I think Allen summed it up nicely "students cannot efficiently find quality information if outdated, wrong, or poorly presented information is overcrowding your library shelves." (p.32)

"While weeding can be controversial, a carefully prepared and fully documented policy on weeding (or deselection) can lessen or alleviate misunderstandings." (Allen, p.32) This quote from Allen inspired me to develop my own weeding policty. It may still need some tweaking but I am happy that I have put something down on paper. Since I have no policies at all on anything, I am happy to have one done! It has always been on my list of things to do but keeps getting pushed down the list as "more important" things come along. Now I have something to put into my policies binder! I think that having a policy is very important. I need to be able to justify my decisions and also to have a process in discarding books.

As I was going through the books in the different Science 2 sections and started pulling out books to discard, I kept thinking that I hope I can find a book to replace this old dated book that still has some decent pictures and information. This was the case even more for the sections that had very few books. I found it very difficult to discard 50% of the section which is just 2 books. I trully hope that I will be able to find quality books that will support the curriculum areas.

For this assignment I weeded in stages to help me through the anxiety of discarding books. I found that this helped a lot but was quite time consuming. First, I did a quick weeding just based on shelf scanning and discarded books that stood out as being old or damaged. Then for the second weeding session, I took the time to look through the books and use my checklist. For the final weeding stage I went through the 'maybe' pile and made a final decision about which books would be discarded and removed from the system. I hope in the future I will become more efficient and will be able to reduce my time spent weeding.

Another aspect of weeding that I found interesting was how you talk to others about weeding. If you explain the importance and necessity of weeding then teachers, students and parents are not as surprised or taken back by the books that are discarded. However if you say nothing or just refer to the discarded books as garbage then I think some people may question your decisions. The following comment from Allen really hit a chord with me, "destruction of books brings up images of censorship and book burning, but it is better to have worthless books in the trash than have trash on your shelves." (p.32) Many people have strong oppinions about discarding books but this quote paints a clear picture about what should remain on the shelves and what shouldn't.

Once again I found myself frustrated by my automated system. Not having the ability to create circulation statistics is quite frustrating. I think these stats provide a sort of confirmation that can help during the weeding process. In particular with the animal section where information does not change much, the circulation stats could be very helpful. I don't know which books teachers use for projects or which ones are used often for particular lessons. I was a little more reserved in this section then I wanted to be especially since this is the section that is too full. The shelves are extremely full, I even have a hard time shelving the books.

I can see that I still have a long way to go in being more ruthless. What I did for this assignment only scratched the surface by mainly discarding the obviously dated and damaged books. I hope as I continue to weed my library collection that I will be able to only leave quality books on the shelves despite my fears of not having books to replace them. I have the image from the Dickinson article about the spoilt milk in my head when I weed. This will hopefully help me to push through my insecurities about weeding so that I can create a well used and effective library collection.


Allen, J. (2010). Weed 'em and weep: The art of weeding to avoid criticism. Library Media Connection 28(6), 32-33. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Bishop, K. (2007). The collection program in schools: Concepts, practices, and information sources. (4th ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Dickinson, G. (2005). Crying over spilled milk. Library Media Connection 23(7), 24-26. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Moore, J. (n.d.) Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding. Retrieved from [[javascript:doWindowOpen('http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/libraries/lib_downloads/weeding1.pdf','new_frame','width=600,height=420,menubar=1,toolbar=1,scrollbars=1,status=1,location=1,resizable=1',0)|http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/libraries/lib_downloads/weeding1.pdf]]

School District No. 36 (Surrey). (2007). Teacher-Librarian Handbook. Retrieved from http://fcweb.sd36.bc.ca/~guilmant_s/Documents/Handbook%2007-06-22%203.pdf