Weeding, Inventory, and Collection Assessment
Because weeding involves looking very closely at the collection item-by-item, it can be done in conjunction with two other collections processes: inventorying and collection assessment. Inventorying is the process of checking the library's actual holdings against the shelf-list to make sure that the shelf-list is accurate. When books were more expensive and rarer inventorying was a very typical collection maintenance function in all kinds of libraries. It also allows the library to eliminate catalog ghosts for books that have been lost, stolen or misplaced.
At one time, it was traditional for libraries to be inventoried once a year. It is less common now in public and academic libraries to inventory the whole library at a time, as it is extremely time-consuming and many librarians do not feel that its benefits are worth such an effort. Many school libraries, which normally have smaller collections, continue to inventory their collections at the end of each school year.
Many librarians choose to inventory single sections of their libraries as part of the weeding process. If you inventory in conjunction with weeding, you simply mark each book as inventoried by placing a small mark in the book and also on the shelf-list card or next to the title and copy on the shelf-list printout. Books that are not physically on hand are inventoried as they return from circulation. Circulation personnel either inventory the books from the classification section as they are returned, or they set them aside on special carts for inspection by the person who is weeding the section to inventory. Books that cannot be accounted for within six months of the inventory are considered lost, and are either replaced with the same title or with a newer title in the same subject area.
Collection assessments may also be made as the collection is weeded. For more information on this process see the Collection Development Sequence Course 2: Collection Assessment.
In either the case of inventorying or collection assessment, weeding should be done first. In the case of inventorying, this gives you fewer books to account for. In the case of collection assessment, the assessment is done on the collection with the non-useful books removed, which gives you a more accurate picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the collection as it really is.
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