Withdrawing items from the library

Weeding

This is the process of removing or withdrawing items from the library collection. It involves the planned removal and disposal of outdated, unused and unwanted materials. The aim is to ensure  library stock stays relevant and attractive.

Weeding is just as important as the initial selection of materials. It should be done regularly so the task doesn't become overwhelming.

Guidelines, criteria and procedures should be part of the library’s Collection Development Policy. If you don’t have a policy, you should document the criteria you will use (such as those below). This will guide your weeding and give it credibility. If members of the school community challenge your decisions you will have guidelines to back up your decisions.

The following criteria are useful:

Currency

  • Is the information out of date?
  • Are statistics still current?

Physical condition

  • Is the item worn, tattered or torn?
  • Does the format discourage use or needs equipment the school no longer owns?
  • Is the item unattractive or faded and unlikely to tempt users?

Accuracy, authority and objectivity

  • Is the content inaccurate, biased or misleading?
  • Is the author reputable?
  • Is the content covered in other library resources?

Relevance

  • Is the content relevant to the curriculum and current teaching and learning methods?
  • Is the item relevant to the recreational or general reference requirements of the school?
  • Is the content and language appropriate to the age group served by the library?
  • Do you have multiple copies that are surplus to requirements?
  • Has the item been used recently?

Hints and tips

General weeding tips:
  • It is better to have a small, relevant, attractive and current collection than a large, shabby and dated one.
  • Sometimes you will need to keep a borderline item because it is a favourite, is being used in a productive way, you can’t afford to replace it, it is out of print or other resources on the topic are not available.
  • Cleaning, recovering or relocating an item can give it a new lease on life. 
  • Involve selected school staff in your weeding process, especially when weeding teacher reference material or material with a specific curriculum focus.  Their involvement will improve their understanding of the collection and weeding processes, and help build a more collaborative relationship with library staff.
  • Old and unused items that you need to keep can be removed from the shelves and stored in a back room. These may include classics or award winners, local interest material or local history material.

Tips from Tasmanian school library staff for new library staff:
  • Get to know your collection before you start weeding.
  • Run usage reports that provide publication dates, dates added to the collection and usage stats.
  • Less is best - full shelves are difficult to browse so new items can be hard to find and not borrowed. Full shelves also prevent you from displaying items 'face-out'.
  • Seek guidance from teachers who are supportive of weeding programs
  • Ask teachers to weed teacher reference collections and areas that are their specialty.
  • Check reference collections for outdated content.
  • Ensure weeded items are removed from the library system.
  • Be aware that some deleted items will be returned to the library by people who don't realise they have been removed from the collection.
  • Dealing with school staff can be problematic so:
    • A clear weeding plan will ensure you can quickly justify why something was discarded.
    • Communicate with facilities staff about disposals so they aren't alarmed when they see a number of items being discarded.
    • If teachers don't want you to discard items, ask them to take deleted iems to their classroom to free space in the library.
  • Make a clear plan before you start weeding
    • Decide what parameters you will adopt eg weed outdated content only or weed items in poor condition and items that have low usage stats.
    • Decide whether you are going to weed a whole collection eg junior fiction or whether you are going to weed specific shelves to create space.
    • Consider whether you will we repair or replace items in bad condition that are well used.
    • Set a start date and just do it!
  • Reflect on your hoarding tendencies - if you are a hoarder:
    • Ask someone else to weed sections for you.
    • Box up weeded items and place them in a storeroom. Delete them after a set period of time if no-one asks for them.
    • Don't seek the advice of teachers who are also hoarders.
    • If you can't bear to remove classic books that aren't read anymore, move them to the library workroom so they don't clog up the shelves.


TALIS Network libraries:  The weeding guidelines on the TALIS Support Website outline how to identify items to weed. Useful tools include:

  • Usage reports based on age and last issued dates.
  • Usage counters in item records.
  • The Mark Item Used wizard.

Disposal

Withdrawn items should be removed from the collection and disposed of according to agreed procedures. Procedures should be documented in a Collection Development Policy (which is approved by school administrators).

Items should be:

  • Deleted from the library management system. This will prevent people seeing them on the catalogue and searching for them. 
  • Clearly labelled as withdrawn. Many schools use a 'Withdrawn' or 'Deleted' stamp and put a permanent line through the barcode (if the item is not going to another school).

Methods of disposal used by Tasmanian schools include:

  • Some items may be donated to other libraries because the content is too hard or easy for your students, or you may have surplus copies.
  • Relocate items within the school eg classrooms.
  • Use the withdrawals as art materials.
  • Set up ‘free libraries’ within the school eg honesty/swap system.
  • Take items to the tip or incinerator.
  • Donate to local or international charities eg Rotary or Library Aid International (via De Bruyn’s Transport). Please make sure these items are in good condition and aren't outdated.
  • Donate to a community library or tip shop.
  • Organise a Great Book Swap to raise money for Indigenous literacy programs.
  • Have a sale at the school fair.
  • Give items to students.
  • Remove book covers and compost paper pages


It is important to document withdrawn items in case administrators or auditors request this information.

TALIS Network libraries can run reports that list all items deleted within a particular timeframe.

Disputed materials

Disputed materials are items that some people view as controversial or offensive to students, staff or other school community members.

The dispute process should be outlined in the library’s Collection Development Policy. The principal approves the policy and has ultimate responsibility. A policy means complaints can be handled in a consistent, logical and non-emotive way.

The policy should cover:

  • How disputes will be documented.
  • The review process.
  • Who will assess the material – a review committee?
  • Will the item be temporarily withdrawn if a decision is pending?
  • What will happen to the item when a decision is made.
  • When items will be removed from the school or returned to the shelves.
  • How will the objector be told about the decision?

A dispute form can be useful.

Remember - the library's collection should reflect a balance of views from different perspectives, so the review of disputed items should be carefully considered.

Further reading: A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian School Library Resource Centres 2nd ed (ALIA & VCTL)


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