Why Weed?

"The weeder is supremely needed if the Garden of the Muses is to persist as a garden."

                                                                                      Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading


Weeding, which is sometimes called "deselection" in academic libraries, is one of the most controversial and difficult processes of collection development.  Because librarians and library users all like books and other library materials, we do not like to think of throwing them away.  We want to think that every book will always have some value.  Destruction of books brings up images of censorship and book burning.  For school libraries, accreditation standards are sometimes based on the number of books held in the collection.  Weeding may take the collection below this standard.  Finally, for some people, weeding is seen as the destruction of public property.

But removing books and other materials from the collection is a necessary function if we wish to keep our library collections meaningful and attractive.  Keeping old materials in the collection may give the public the impression that all we have is old and outdated.  It may mean that we won't have room for newer and more useful materials.  It may even be dangerous if we keep information that no longer is accurate.  For example, a medical book written 50 years ago might recommend all kinds of treatments that are no longer used and may even have been proven to be counterproductive. 

Moreover, the process of weeding can be helpful in collection assessment and in helping library staff learn more about the collection.  Weeding requires that staff actually look at the collection.  In weeding, you will see the holes and weaknesses in your collection as well as the strengths.  If you weed your collection on a continuous basis, you will know your collection better.

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