KLA/MLA Day 2 – Weeding Without Tears

Weeding Without Tears: Don’t let weeding become a public relations nightmare with Mickey Coalwell  | Oct. 1 | Presentation

Day 2 – and I’ve already had another hug (and a hangover, but that’s my own damn fault).

Mickey is now the Regional Director of LSSI for the Western Region after 10 years at NEKLS as a Library Development Consultant.

The politics and public relations of weeding.

Stories of publicity ‘debacles’ – Corrine Hill from Chattanooga Public Library was interviewed for this session – she was 2014 Librarian of the Year and by September a former Friends claimed she had “no respect for books whatsoever.”  August 2015 weeding backlash at KCPL – “Bibliocide” claimed the Friends of KCPL.  Urbana, IL…rallies in Berkeley, CA. When public gets involved in the weeding process, it often lead to the Director resigning or being fired. Whistleblowers were always staff, volunteers or Friends of the library!

What went wrong?  Causes:

  • No policies or vague policies
  • Public perception of the library as a museum/archive v. popular lending library
  • Untrained boards, staff and volunteers
  • Time and resources – “big weeding projects” are poison. It flags the public.
  • Emotional resistance in the form of irrational bibliophilia – romantic attachments
  • Past mistakes and lack of consistent weeding practices


  • Clear, consistent weeding criteria and philosophy – do you talk about it with the board, staff and Friends?  Procedures – how and why we weed.  Add a mending policy, too.
  • Regular, scheduled weeding with detailed documentation – keep the list!  provide more data, not less. Be transparent about our data – share what and why we are taking off the shelf.
  • Ideas: Free books just weeded, so the staff see what’s being removed and can take it home if they want!  In Academic library, involve the staff and faculty to give them options to unweed potential weeds.  Book Sales – gives the public option to see and take home the books!  Better World Books and online book sellers. Story of a recycling center also giving folks the chance to take books home.
  • Hints: pull out memorial bookplates before weeding (or return books to family if possible), second chance displays, etc.
  • CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries by Jeanette Larson BEST RESOURCE EVER.

Bottom Line:

  • No Surprises
  • Train and educate staff at every opportunity – formally and informally
  • Board and volunteer orientation and training, including hands-on involvement in weeding
  • Share with staff how to be sensitive to the perceptions of the public.
  • We are good stewards, data-driven decision makers – and make sure deselection is talked about as much as selection
  • Be careful with “Big Projects” like RFID and moves – they trigger emotional responses from public.
  • Weed everyday or every week, just like you add new books everyday and every week.

Know the Numbers:

  • Data driven – helps protect you against irrational attacks.  Counter arguments against ‘morally reprehensible weeding’
  • Turnover (Circ/holdings)
  • Cost per circa (Expenditures/Circ)
  • Space for face-out displays, circ ALWAYS goes up, and people can SEE what GOOD stuff you have

Criteria:  Physical condition, frequency of use, date of publication, duplication, availability, and long-term historical significance or local interest  (MUSTIE)  Talk about these at staff meetings.

Product Life of different collections, formats and types – and include that in the policy.  “Board books last one day.”

How do you deal with local history and local authors?  Historical societies or take them off the floor.  You have them, but keep them ‘in a special place’ off the stacks.


  • Policy justification
  • Clear, written weeding criteria
  • Detailed record keeping
  • Consistent adherence to weeding guidelines
  • Inventory management approach
  • Training and communication
  • Include board and volunteers and friends in the weeding process – own the process and build a bridge with the community because they are involved in the process.

What to do according to Idaho commission for libraries:

  1. Make sure weeding is fully explained in your policy
  2. Fall any laws or local ordinances about the dispels of public property
  3. Give the public a chance to acquire materials before discarding them
  4. Work with the media preemptively

Weeding is a complex issue. That’s why it’s done by professionals.” – Corrine Hill


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