When WePAC comes into a library that hasn’t been used in years, there is a lot of work to be done. Our volunteers are adding new material to the collection, sorting those resources that are already on the shelves, and making the space a warm and inviting place in which children can learn. But as we approach all these tasks, we should also consider deselection, the process of removing material from a library collection.

Lots of different criteria exist for deselection, or weeding. This deselection guide from Contra Costa County Library examines non-fiction deselection by two standards: date of publication and date of last circulation. Currency is a big consideration for deselection, especially in subject areas that aren’t static. For instance, books on folklore or mythology have no cut-off date on publication, but a book on computers, where currency matters, should be weeded if it is more than three years old. Circulation statistics are also a good hint to collection developers that a book is just taking up shelf space, even if the material is current.

Another helpful model is MUSTIE, a framework for evaluating collections based on six criteria:

Misleading–books are factually inaccurate or fail to represent substantial periods of time (for instance, a book on Kuwait published before the Gulf War).
Ugly–worn out, mildewed and water damaged books, materials with torn covers.
Superseded–book has been replaced by a new edition or better source (don’t hang on to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records if you have the 2000 edition).
Trivial–no discernible literary or scientific merit.
Irrelevant to the needs or tastes of your users.
Elsewhere–the material is accessible on the Web or there are multiple copies in the library of a low-circulating item.

Another consideration not explicitly mentioned above is accuracy and currency of material, which will apply to a lot of the older books in our collection. And offensiveness! For more on this and the importance of weeding in general, check out Awful Library Books. I think I’ve seen some of these titles in WePAC libraries before deselection projects have been undertaken!