Stark Campus Library
Weeding Project, 1999

Report

 

The Need to Weed

The Stark Campus Library staff has long suspected that much of the materials contained in the library’s circulating collection were outdated and little used. Although space limitation was not a problem (the library had enough shelf space to keep the books that were eventually removed), the philosophy of the library regarding collection development is to keep only relevant information. Outdated information not only serves little purpose for the library’s users, it has the potential of misleading users by presenting facts and opinions that may have been discounted by subsequent research. By applying standard measures of currency established by library professionals, it was the library’s desire to weed out materials that were no longer considered useful for library patrons. The library felt that keeping information for historical purposes was more the function of a larger, research-oriented library (providing service to graduate-level students and beyond, for example) and not that of the Stark Campus Library.

Still, some books have value that transcends the general criteria used to determine whether or not the information is outdated—the publication date, for instance. As a result, some portions of the collection were left intact (literature, history, etc.). In addition, there is the subjective analysis that an expert can apply to determine if a book generally considered outdated should be kept in the collection. To include this aspect of determining the value of books selected for weeding an important part of the weeding project was allowing faculty and staff on the Stark Campus the opportunity to retain any book regardless of its age or perceived usefulness.

To take into account the library’s users’ perceived usefulness of books, the library decided to include circulation usage as an important factor in deciding to keep or remove books. If circulation history for any book showed that the book was perceived to be used by a patron at least once after 7/94, the book was retained.

 

Applying the Criteria

The criteria used to determine whether or not books should be selected for weeding was:

Appearance

1. Badly bound books with shoddy binding.

2. Badly printed books (small print, dull or faded print, poor illustrations.)

3. Worn-out books, whose pages are dirty, brittle, or yellow, with missing pages, frayed binding, broken backs, or dingy, dirty covers.

Superfluous Books

1. Duplicate titles.

2. Older editions.

3. Textbooks.

Age

Based on standards broken down by Library of Congress classification.

Books whose appearance demonstrates that they are too worn to be used are regularly evaluated. Some books are repaired by library staff while others are sent to a commercial binder for repairs. Those beyond repair are evaluated for replacement (if they are still in print) and discarded.

The library rarely purchases duplicates and withdraws older editions of books when newer ones are acquired. Before duplicates are removed, an analysis of the book’s circulation history is performed. In some cases it is necessary to maintain more than a single copy of a book that is highly used.

Generally, books published more than 10 years ago are considered outdated. Books published in more technical subject areas may be considered outdated after 5 years. (A complete break down by Library of Congress classification numbers showing the age at which materials are considered outdated is attached to the end of this report.)

The first step in the project was checking KentLINK (the library’s online catalog) and reporting the specific books that were determined to be outdated based on publication date. At the time this report was created (during the summer of 1999) the circulating collection totaled 49,209 books. Of these 20,144 (41%) were considered to be outdated, based on their publication date.

 

Circulation Usage

An analysis of the circulation history of all books selected for weeding based on publication date was conducted. It was decided that if any of these books were circulated after 7/94 they would not be weeded. Of the 20,144 booked selected, 6,206 were circulated at least once after 7/94. This reduced the number of books selected for weeding to 13,938 (28% of the total collection).

It is important to note that circulation history is not always a good factor in determining the quality of a book. Many patrons check out materials they never use. On the other hand, the fact that someone did physically remove a book from the shelf, check it out, and return it may indicate that there is still some reason to believe that it served some use for the patron.

What is interesting to note is that of the 20,144 books selected for weeding based on publication date, 70% were not checked out at all during the last five years. This further supports the idea that these materials are outdated and of little (or no) use to library users.

 

Review of Selected Materials by Librarians, Faculty, and Staff

Once the 13,938 books were selected for weeding and physically separated from the collection, evaluation of those books was conducted to determine if there was some value beyond age and limited circulation that would suggest retaining any book. Initially, the librarians looked over the books selected for weeding. Once that was completed, all faculty and staff on campus were invited to review the selected books and decide if any should be kept. No justification for keeping a book was required. If anyone felt the need to retain any book, no questions were asked and the book was simply placed back into the circulating collection.

At the end of the review period 12,473 were left in the weeded section. In the final analysis, this meant that 25% of the collection was targeted for removal and 1,465 (or 11%) of the items selected for weeding were returned to the circulating collection upon review by librarians, faculty, and staff.

The following chart summaries the process:

 

 

Re-shelving the Collection

The current plan for re-shelving the books retained after weeding is to redistributed them all equally-spaced. Aside from being the simplest method of re-shelving the materials, this serves two purposes:

The overall appearance of the circulating collection will be well organized and aesthetically appealing.

It will be easy to see what parts of the collection are growing (and at what rate) by merely viewing the shelves to see where they are more compact.

 

Conclusions

It is important to note that the process of weeding the collection was extremely thorough. Although specific criteria were used to determine whether or not books were to be considered outdated, in the end the subjective opinion of any faculty or staff member on the campus was considered before materials were removed from the collection. The fact that even with this liberal methodology 25% of the collection was still considered too outdated to retain suggests that the project was a well-needed one.

Libraries do not usually have the luxury of devoting time to evaluating their existing collection to remove outdated materials on a regular basis. So when projects like this take place it is logical to assume that a significant percentage of the collection will be targeted for weeding.

In the end, the benefits achieved by completing this project included:

Easier access to the collection (users do not have to filter through unwanted, outdated materials to get to the important information)

A collection that is easier to manage (library staff are better able to move and organize materials when there are fewer of them to deal with)

A better picture of the collection as a whole is created (it is easier to see where the collection’s strengths and weaknesses are when obsolete materials are not shelved next to current ones)

This last point also provides a springboard for developing a more systematic plan for overall collection development. With a leaner, up-to-date collection, it becomes easier for those selecting new materials to add to the collection in a fashion that maintains an overall balance and cohesion.

Two supplemental documents are included below that show the specific criteria used for selecting outdated materials, and the results of applying those criteria, both broken down by Library of Congress classification codes.