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Find more Weeding Tips
As I’ve mentioned in previous “Weeding Tips” columns, a collection-development plan is something that every library needs, especially when it comes to weeding. Many librarians feel a sense of unease or uncertainty when they approach weeding. We all want reassurance that what we’re discarding isn’t something that will be needed. We want to know we’ve made the right decisions.
What helps with those decisions is a solid collection-development plan or policy. (For all intents and purposes, the terms are interchangeable, although you may find a policy document is shorter than a full “plan.”) Having a plan in place puts everyone on the same page and can save a lot of time and frustration at all stages of the weeding project. Although it can’t tell you what individual titles to keep, it can give you firm guidelines of what should—and shouldn’t—remain on your shelves.
What’s Your Plan?
Does your library have a plan? Have you seen it? If the answer to either of those questions is anything but a resounding yes, then don’t even think of starting a weeding project. Other questions to ask, once you’ve laid eyes upon the document: Is your plan basic or comprehensive? Who had input? When was it updated last? I’m always surprised when I talk to people about weeding and discover that there is no plan in place, or the plan was last updated in 2004, or maybe there is a plan but only the department head has read it, or it’s only thought about when there is a challenge to materials.
A collection-development plan serves both an internal and an external purpose. It’s the librarian’s guide to what to buy and what to collect—as well as why and how to discard—and it informs the public about the principles upon which selection decisions are made. A written plan can also provide a basis for continuity over time and through personnel changes.
Creating (or Updating) a Plan
The Arizona State Library has a wonderful comprehensive training document on the elements of a collection-development plan, and rather than reinvent the wheel, I encourage everyone to read their guidelines, which can be found at http://www.azlibrary.gov/cdt/colldev.aspx. There are also many books on collection development that address creating plans, including Vicki L. Gregory’s Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections: An Introduction (2011); Peggy Johnson’s Fundamentals of Collection Development & Management (2008); Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner’s Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management (2011); and Carole Singer’s Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections (2012). ALA also offers a “Workbook for Selection Policy Writing,” which includes a sample template, at http://bit.ly/1nwz2Mc.
In addition, a simple web search will bring up hundreds of plans. Find the documents of similar institutions, and see what appeals to you as you structure your own.
Your plan can be anything from a few pages to a long document. My advice is to craft general statements about the collection as a whole, citing goals and objectives and outlining responsibilities. I would then suggest taking the time to list every section individually, with the relevant purchasing and deselection information. The size and scope of your library will dictate how long or detailed your plan needs to be, but I think every library will benefit from pulling out each selection area. For an example of this, see the Glen Ellyn (IL) Public Library’s “Collection Development Policies, Procedures, and Plan,” found at http://www.gepl.org/about/policies/collection-development-policy/. (This is a document I worked on when I was head of Adult Services at GPL.) See how we used three terms when naming it? It clearly lays out every section of materials selection and briefly describes the goals of collecting in each Dewey area as well as retention and deselection timetables and guidelines. There are separate sections for various formats as well as a separate Youth policy.
Once your plan is complete and approved by your board, make sure it makes the rounds. Every staff member should have a print copy or a link to the internal copy, and a copy should either be posted in a public place in the library or kept at the reference desk. If possible, post the document on your website—not only for your public but for the use of your fellow librarians.
And review and revise as needed. Every three to four years is probably sufficient, and the revision can likely be knocked out in a single committee meeting.
Using your Plan for Weeding
If you’ve written your plan by section, the plan should make it clear when sections should be evaluated, what publication dates should be used when making decisions, and what exceptions should be made. For example, the GPL plan lays out that the Dewey 300s should be evaluated every other year to see if weeding is necessary. It goes on to state, “Tax guides are kept for 7 years. Multiple copies are weeded after the current tax year. The college guides and test preparation books are kept up-to date by standing-order plans. Titles in the legal, personal investment, colleges guide, and test preparation areas need to be evaluated every 2 years and will be considered for weeding if they have not circulated in 3 years. All other areas should be weeded every 5 years. Titles with the exceptions noted above will be considered for weeding if they have not circulated for 5 years.”
That’s pretty clear advice. And, really, clear advice is what helps ease the uncertainty of weeding. What kind of advice can you tailor for your collection?
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