While buying awesome new books for a library collection is probably the most glamorous part of collection development, let’s not forget how important it is to maintain a collection that is attractive and relevant to your community. After all, a well-curated collection that people love browsing will ultimately lead to higher circulation. 

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  • Scenario 2: A patron complains that the science in her child’s astronomy book is out of date.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 John Steinbeck (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 make the decision for you. (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 and just needs to be promoted. And stats 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 “Most Highly Recommended,” down to “Supplementary” — which can be used for filling out larger collections), plus a category for books we suggest weeding (Archival), 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 believes 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 Steinbeck (or Patterson) oeuvre you really need to keep multiples of. 

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

Shauna Griffin is a Content Strategy Manager for NoveList. She is currently reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, and Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins.