Weeding Policy

Questions and Answers

What is weeding?

Weeding a library is like weeding a garden; one looks over everything and carefully selects those things which need to be removed. In a library, weeding is a shelf-by-shelf and book-by-book review and withdrawal of certain books in a library's collection. Weeding can be either scheduled regularly or irregularly, as the need arises, or can be constantly ongoing.

Why are you weeding?

Here at the Kelly Library, we need to weed the collection for many reasons, the most pressing of which is that we are simply out of shelf space for new books. Other reasons include the necessity to keep the collection up-to-date and to keep the information available as accurate as possible. Another reason is that, as the curriculum of Emory and Henry evolves, the collection needs to evolve, in order to adequately support it. A couple of examples include criminology and social work, which were once part of our curriculum but no longer are. Books also wear out and fall apart. At other times, certain materials were added to the collection that no longer fit our collection development policy. For example, at this time, we try not to collect textbooks, yet there are many old textbooks on our shelves. Other examples are duplicate copies of titles, where a single or a couple of copies is now sufficient for our needs. For these reasons, there are always books and other materials that need to be removed from our collection. It is important to remember that Kelly Library is an undergraduate library and has different educational goals and responsibilities than a major research institution, such as Virginia Tech or UVA.

Who decides what to weed?

The librarians and the archivist are all information professionals, trained and experienced in the science of collection maintenance. Just like collection development, collection maintenance is also taught in graduate library programs. The professional librarians and archivist on the staff are assigned sections of the collection that most closely match their areas of expertise, education, and interests. Remember that, in addition to a master's degree in library and information science, all librarians have at least a bachelor's degree in a subject area other than professional librarianship, and some have additional graduate degrees and certifications in subject areas as well.

What happens when you weed a collection?

When faculty members or the professional library staff select material for withdrawal, the items will be checked against collection development tools such as Best Books for Academic Libraries, Resources for College Libraries, and AHA Guide to Historical Literature. Any title found in these resources will be retained.

If a librarian has a question about the removal of a book, a faculty member in the appropriate department will be contacted. If the faculty member believes the item selected for withdrawal should be retained, it will be returned to the shelf. If no feedback is received within two weeks, the items will be withdrawn from the collection.

How often does weeding occur?

We try to weed on an ongoing basis, only scheduling organized weeding when absolutely necessary.

Why do you sometimes weed during the breaks from classes?

A large organized weeding is a dirty and difficult job, as well as a somewhat noisy one. We sometimes schedule weeding activities during a time when the students are not on campus so that the professional library staff can all participate with a minimum of disruption to the students and other library patrons.

What input does the faculty have in the weeding process?

Faculty members are always welcome to come in on their own and weed the part of the collection that corresponds to their area(s) of expertise at any time, or to set up a time to have the assistance of the professional library staff in that process. They are also welcome to come and help us with a scheduled weeding of the collection, or to be present at the weeding and inspect the selected materials being weeded.

What if something important gets weeded?

Mistakes do happen on occasion, and what gets weeded is also often a matter of opinion. Books that meet the criteria for withdrawal may be something that is considered vital to a subject area by a faculty member. If the book hasn't been removed from the premises, we can reprocess it back into the collection. If it has, then it is too late to recover it. However, each department is given an annual budget for purchasing new books and materials by the Library. They can choose to replace weeded materials as they see fit. This is the most important reason why we welcome faculty members' participation in the weeding process.

What happens to the books that are weeded?

Books and materials withdrawn from our collection at the Kelly Library are offered first to faculty and HAL member libraries and then to Kelly Library patrons, and finally to area used book dealers.

Can faculty, staff, or students have the weeded books?

Absolutely! Our only stipulation is that they ask first, so that we may make sure they have been fully processed and withdrawn from the collection.

Weeding Guidelines

What we remove:

  • Duplicates
  • Superseded editions of which we have the latest
  • Outdated materials


  • Computer Science older than 5 years (except UNIX, Open VMS, Cobol, Fortran)
  • Science after 10 years except History of Science, Botany and Science
  • Technology and Applied Science older than 5 years
  • Library Science after 10 years except for theory and history
  • Occupational Guides, resume guides, etc. older than 5 years
  • Financial Management and Real Estate guides older than 5 years
  • Travel books older than 10 years
  • Health, Medicine, Nutrition and Pharmacology older than 5 years
  • Psychology older than 10 years (not including Biography, History of Psychology, and Psychological Theory)
  • Physical Education older than 10 years
  • Vanity press materials in general and really old outdated materials
  • Textbooks
  • Badly damaged items (be sure to check on replacing them)
  • Atlases older than 10 years
  • Materials which no longer support the curriculum
  • Best sellers older than 10 years other than authors still publishing that are not part of our curriculum
  • Books not checked out in more than 10 years.
  • Incomplete series (either order the missing volume or delete the set)
  • Study prep guides (GRE, MCAT, etc) older than 5 years

Books We Never Weed

  • Methodist history and theology unless duplicated or in a new edition
  • Regional materials (history, literature, geography, economics, art, music, etc.)
  • Authors on the faculty
  • Classics in each field
  • Core materials in each discipline
  • Literary classics
  • Primary sources
  • Works deemed to be of historical value by the library professional staff