Deselection is fast becoming the ‘in’ thing for libraries everywhere – i.e. what to do with all those old and newish ‘books’ -which are now officially called ‘legacy print materials’ – clogging up libraries.

Given that there are numerous libraries managing down their collections, there is a growing demand for tools and consultancy to assist in the quick deselection of books.

The decisions can actually be quite simple –

  • has the book been borrowed in <>given time
  • is the subject/discipline still being taught
  • is there a digital version
  • is the book available in another library
  • is the book rare, valuable
  • are there conditions attached to the book (i.e. is the book part of a formed or donated collection that retention agreements exist for)
  • will there be academic/political difficulties in deselecting
  • can the book be sold/given to another institution
  • But how can this be done quickly and cheaply. Well your own system can tell you easily which items have been borrowed and whether they form part of a collection and data matching those not used within a given time period against a larger distributed set to see their preponderance is also easy.

    A statistic from this flyer says that 56% of books in academic libraries are never circulated. That suggests two things, firstly that librarians are buying books without due diligence and secondly that half of an academic libraries holdings should be deselected. So expect more on this subject.

    Btw I have an article on this very subject appearing in the March issue of Incite if you need further advice.


    6 thoughts on “Deselection

    1. there is also the issue of books which are used, heavily, only inside the library. things like art texts will get a lot of inhouse use, but are rarely borrowed just due to their size, or due to the fact they do not need to be consulted extensively.

      • I agree – circulation isn’t the only measure of whether a book is being used – at TAFE we used to collect the books left lying around on tables by students and mark them as ‘used’ in the system before returning to shelves. If a student takes 10 books from the shelves but only finally borrows 2 then that’s an inaccurate picture of what they are ‘using’ from the collection. Surely?

        • You answered the question yourself, by marking the books being used in-house as used in your system (which many libraries do btw) then you have some statistics to work with, and those books need not be deselected. Every librarian knows however that there are many books which are never borrowed nor consulted and for which continued storage is wasteful and unecessary. It is not as though weeding is a new concept, it has always been practiced and is part of keeping a public or academic library a living entity.

    2. But realistically in the long term, only one copy in a national library (and/or state library) is all that’s required. And if a book is in many libraries, it will also probably be in the hands of many private collectors, and so generally available. The concept of just in time, as opposed to just in case needs to be taken seriously.

    3. Agree. Deselection is a must. The Library as keeper of all published output regardless of usage needs to be challenged. Let’s judge quality not quantity.

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