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Weeding Collections: Home

Why and how to weed Doheny and other library collections

Weeding and Storage

USC Libraries are fortunate to have Grand Avenue Library to serve as a storage facility.

Without a storage facility, consider:

  • Loss of collection depth and/or breadth
  • Potential increased ILL demand (longer waits for patrons than retrieval from storage)
  • Chance that nearby libraries will also weed them?  Libraries in a consortium could agree on "do not cancel--keep last copy in system" titles as a backup.
  • If weeded titles have ebook equivalents, can they be borrowed via ILL?
  • If bound journals are weeded in favor of keeping online full-text, does the library have perpetual access?
  • For newspapers, if microfilm is weeded in favor of keeping online full-text, the Tasini decision prevents the online from republishing articles without the authors' permission.



All libraries ultimately face three major collection management issues:  Overcrowding, out-of-date, and out-of-scope.  To those we can add multiple copies, condition issues, and the need to repurpose space.  Weeding is the process by which librarians address such issues and should be a regular component of the USC Libraries collection management. Many librarians have had to regularly weed their collections in the subject libraries.  Over the years there have been a number of projects to weed Doheny stacks, but most have been undertaken in response to a crisis.  Our latest endeavor, despite the short time frame of part 1, aims to begin a more holistic approach that will include journals in Doheny as well as Grand and ideally become a consistent process.

N.B. Some of the content in this LibGuide has been taken from UC-Irvine's subject guide, Space, Space, Space: Weeding and What Remains (http://libguides.lib.uci/fiatfluxweeding). That guide states "This website provides academic libraries with methods to replicate our success through communication and coordination among bibliographers and technical services.  Here we share the issues and the solutions..."
When I quote from that guide, I will cite it simply as UCI.

Rationale for Weeding

The USC Libraries is one of only 125 ARL institutions, and thus has a substantial interest in preserving the history of civilization within the parameters of the University's teaching and research, past, present, and future.  In addition, we continue to build on existing collection strengths.  Weeding has sometimes been defined as discarding or withdrawing materials.  While some Doheny books may, indeed, be discarded due to condition, duplication, or inappropriateness, this project will focus instead on transferring volumes to Grand Avenue Library.  Most will NOT be withdrawn

The principle reason for weeding is usually overcrowded stacks.  That is definitely the case in Doheny, which has a capacity of 575,000 volumes, and currently has approximately 506,000 volumes.  Doheny adds 20,000-24,000 volumes annually.   The goal of our current project is to remove a total of 75,000 volumes.  The lists which Masoud Farajpour has produced have about 110,000 titles to be reviewed (22% of the collection).

There are additional benefits to clearing overcrowded shelves, among which are:

  • Improving our reputation for reliability and currency by removing obsolete and inaccurate materials.
  • Encouraging browsing by removing outdated materials.
  • Drawing attention to materials that may have been overlooked.
  • Eliminating items no longer relevant to the curriculum.
  • Reducing redundancy by removing duplicate copies and unnecessary previous editions.
  • Allowing librarians to identify gaps in the collection.

According to Slote (1997),

  • "It has become an increasingly recognized fact that proper weeding should increase circulation" (p.10)
  • "...collections should be weeded so that the speed of access is increased, and so that the accuracy in retrieval is improved" (p.10)
  • "...those books least likely to be used in the future will be removed" (p.11)
  • "In a weeded collection, time is saved in shelving, reshelving, and taking inventory. Retrieval becomes more efficient for both staff and users." (p.5)
  • Newer, more frequently used materials are more clearly visible on the shelves.
  • Spines of books on tightly packed shelves are not torn when readers remove them.
  • Reduction in the number of major book shifts.
  • Elimination of emergency weeding situations
  • Librarians get to participate in the full range of collection management--not just identifying and selecting materials, but also making sure the best materials for the user community are on the shelves. [UCI]

Subject Guide

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John Juricek
Grand Library CAL 205
3434 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-2931

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