In the northern hemisphere, it’s Spring, and that means two things — it’s almost time for Summer Reading, and it’s time to spring clean! In the library world, that might mean checking over your collection to make sure that you are maintaining titles that are relevant to your community. After all, a well-curated collection that people love browsing will ultimately lead to higher circulation, and getting rid of books that don’t circ makes room for those that do.  

This means judicious weeding. And while some people love weeding, others struggle. If you do too, you are certainly not alone. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent strategies and tools that you can employ when making weeding decisions, regardless of the scenario. (Ok, some scenarios will require more than others, and a weeding project across a collection is different than a one-off weed.)

  • Scenario 1: You come across a damaged book. It is the last copy on your shelves. Should you replace it with a new copy, or toss it without replacing it?  
  • Scenario 2: A patron complains that the science in her child’s astronomy book is out of date. But it’s one of only a few books you have at that age range. Do you keep it knowing that it’s misleading? Research other options for replacing it? Toss it without replacing it?
  • Scenario 3: You’re running out of space in your fiction section. Do you really need multiple copies of every book that Herman Melville (or James Patterson) wrote? 

In all of these scenarios and plenty more, it’s important to remember that you do have strategies to fall back on, as well as tools like Core Collections that can help you make a decision. (Don’t forget — weeding should be covered in your collection development policy so that you and your community are clear on what criteria are being used in the decision-making process.) 

In general, checking circ stats can be a big help, though you don’t want to make a decision solely based on whether a book has circulated recently. It might be a niche topic or of interest to a small but essential part of your community. It might just need a bit of extra promotion (that’s where clever displays come in, lonely hearts or otherwise). And stats alone won’t tell you if there’s a better book on the subject. 

In addition to stats (and knowing your community’s needs), Core Collections can help you determine whether a book should be replaced or not. With three different levels of recommendations (from the must-have “Essential” through “Recommended” and on to “Supplemental,” which is great for filling out corners of your collection with high interest in your community or for larger collections in general), plus a category for books we suggest weeding or at least not replacing (Weeded), Core Collections provides guidance in all three of the above scenarios, and more:  

  • Scenario 1: What does Core Collections say? Based on the recommendation level, you’ll know whether or not the experts behind Core Collections believe this is a book that most libraries should have.
  • Scenario 2: Search Core Collections by Dewey or subject and audience, and you’ll get a list of books we do recommend at every age level.
  • Scenario 3: Check out what we prioritize within any author’s body of work, and determine for yourself which books in the Melville (or Patterson) oeuvre you really need to keep multiples of. 

What other weeding scenarios do you face? Let us know!

Core Collections

The first step in great readers’ advisory is a great collection.

Shauna Griffin is a Senior Collection Development Librarian at NoveList.