Developing & Managing a High-Quality Library Collection

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  • 0:04 The Secret Garden
  • 1:19 Weeding
  • 3:28 Acquisition
  • 5:00 Purchasing
  • 6:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Hamm

Emily has B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in educational technology. She teaches full-time, works as an adjunct professor, and is a freelancer.

This lesson discusses procedures for weeding out unused or outdated resources from a school library. You'll also learn about considerations for selecting new resources to replace outdated material and meet the needs of a diverse school population.

The Secret Garden

Imagine you've just inherited a secret garden. Your unknown benefactor placed a skeleton key in an envelope addressed to you along with a location where you would find it. Of course, you go immediately. The skeleton key slips perfectly into place, and the lock twists easily as if inviting you to enter. You discover your secret garden, but this one holds a sinister truth. To keep this garden, you must pull weeds and remove dead plant matter. You imagine yourself pulling acres and acres of weeds for years to come. Stealthily, you exit and lock the gate behind you. You wind up and toss the key back over the wall.

Although hyperbolic, this story illustrates our general feeling of detestation toward weeding. Weeding is the process of deselecting or removing outdated or unpopular material from a library. To possess the beauty and the charm of the secret garden, you must remove the dead plants to make way for new growth. Similarly, to have a thriving and applicable collection for your clientele, you must have collection policies in place that allow for growth, expansion, and removal of items when they become unnecessary.


Out with the old and in with the new! A library was never designed to be a museum of old artifacts. In fact, a healthy library has systems in place to weed, or remove, ''dead'' material to make way for new stories and updated information.

Ask yourself the following weeding questions to help you determine which books to remove:

  • 'Is the information accurate?' Nonfiction works especially can be outdated quickly. Medical information can actually be dangerous to leave on a shelf if it is inaccurate based upon the passage of time.
  • 'Is the material enticing?' The physical book cannot be falling apart and remain a viable part of the collection. Only so much tape can be used before the material isn't used despite the information or story inside because it's just plain ugly.
  • 'Is it irrelevant'?' is another important question to consider. Some material no longer serves a purpose to the students, teachers, and patrons of your school or district. When it reaches this point, it's time for it to go.
  • 'Has it been used?' Most digital checkout systems keep records of the frequency of checkout. This is an easy indicator to see the relevance of a material. If it hasn't circulated much or at all within the designated timeframe, it's time to say goodbye.

Once you've weeded your library, you have a few options of what to do with the weeded material. This may sound harsh, but the best options are to destroy it, recycle it, or trash it. Material that is inaccurate, unenticing, irrelevant, and unused in your collection will certainly be treated the same elsewhere. Farmers know to burn away the chaff so new plants can grow. Librarians should act with the same liberty.

Weeding isn't necessarily considered a fun part of the job of the library media specialist. In fact, it is often hated. However, if you spend 15 minutes a week weeding one shelf, one area, one collection, etc., on a continuous basis, you won't have to spend countless hours in the library during the summer doing this task. Best of all, weeding makes room for the fun of adding new materials to the collection.


To continue the gardening metaphor, acquisition, or the purchasing of new material to add to the collection, is the planting and growth of new plants. This is the part that bears fruit.

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