Weeding Policy


Weeding is an essential component of Carleton University Library’s collection development and management activity, helping to ensure that the overall collection is relevant and useful to users. Weeding eliminates unused, outdated and worn-out materials from the active collection, freeing up shelf and floor space, and allowing the remaining materials to be easier to find and use. There are two aspects of weeding: withdrawal (discard) of materials from the Library’s collection, or relocation of items to Storage Facility.

General Procedures

Weeding is done both day-to-day as needed, and annually as part of a larger annual summer weeding project.  It generally involves Research Support Services, CDA, CCM and Stacks Services staff.

In both the annual projects and the day-to-day weeding, it is understood that the explicit criteria detailed below will sometimes be supplemented by judgment on the part of staff, particularly for certain categories of materials, including but not limited to special editions, rare materials, core and classic texts, primary material, books that are part of a set, books written or edited by important authors in their fields, as well as books written or edited by a Carleton affiliated author.

Books for which a decision has been made to withdraw are recycled or are disposed of in the greenest manner possible. There are unlikely to be many titles that are of value to anyone else, and in any case the logistics of offering them to, for example, a department, an individual faculty member, or another library or external organization would be too time-consuming and expensive.  In very exceptional cases, a large collection on a particular subject area might be offered to another library with a collection strength in the area.

A book that was weeded to Storage may be relocated back to the main Library. Generally, staff from Research Support Services make this determination.

The Storage Facility is meant to be a place where the Library houses materials which are used by the Carleton community (and beyond), but for which the frequency of use is not great enough to require that they be on the shelves in the main building. Storage materials are intermediate between the two other main categories of materials: the high-use ones which for practical purposes have to be kept in the main building in order to provide timely service to users, and materials which are not used sufficiently at all and which are therefore candidates for discard/weeding according to established policy and procedures.

Procedures for Annual Summer Weeding Projects

For the annual projects, reports are generated for circulation data, and then decisions are made based on those lists or on direct shelf inspection.  Catalogue Maintenance staff can independently decide about books in poor physical condition, and about multiple copies (see below for additional information). Research Support Services staff decide on the criteria for deselection, and arbitrate the situations requiring a judgment call or a thorough knowledge of the subject area. A key principle is that Research Support Services staff generally have the opportunity to review books in order to make decisions on weeding, but according to an agreed-upon timeframe and an overall number or percentage of books in selected subject areas or collections that need to be weeded for collection management purposes.  It is the mandate of the Collections Committee to recommend the parameters of the annual summer weeding project.


A book is considered for weeding if it has been in the collection and not circulated in

  • 10 years or more for science and engineering books
  • 20 years or more for humanities and social sciences books

A decision for each of these books is then made according to the following criteria:

The book is in poor physical condition

  • Withdraw.

There are multiple copies of the book

  • Withdraw all but one. If, exceptionally, more than one copy is retained in the Library, no more than one of those should be relocated to Storage.

There are superseded editions of the book.

  • Generally, withdraw all except the latest edition.

The book is no longer relevant to the collection

  • Research Support Services staff decide, and then withdraw.

Procedure for Day-to-Day Weeding

For day-to-day weeding outside of annual projects, Catalogue Maintenance staff can independently decide on the treatment of books in poor physical condition as well as multiple copies.


The book is in poor physical condition

  • If the book has not circulated at all or has circulated very little Catalogue Maintenance will alert the appropriate staff member in Research Support Services for evaluation and a decision. If there is no reply within a month, then the book will be withdrawn.
  • If the book has circulated, then Catalogue Maintenance will mend and return to the shelf any book in need of only minor repair, and initiate an order for a replacement copy if repair is not possible.

There are multiple copies of the book

  • Catalogue Maintenance staff withdraw the copies which are not circulating at all or with low circulation. If more than one copy is retained in the Library, no more than one of those should be relocated to Storage.

There are superseded editions of the book.

  • Research Support Services staff decide whether to withdraw or relocate, generally withdrawing all except the latest edition and any older editions that are circulating.

Procedures for Weeding Serials

Before serials are withdrawn Catalogue Maintenance staff will check the holdings of other OCUL member institutions prior to discarding, and will retain the print copy should Carleton be the last member of OCUL to own the serial title in question. 

Generally, the weeding of serials is done as part of the annual summer weeding projects.  Serials can be weeded from both the main library building, as well as the Storage Facility.


A serial is generally considered for weeding when there is an online equivalent to the paper copy.  Some serials, such as those useful in the study of architecture and history, require the retention of print for the quality of the illustrations and color photography.  In these cases, print is usually retained even in instances where online access is steady and available.  Where we lose online access through content changes in packages, and the print copy has been weeded, the Library is committed to picking up direct access to individual titles.

 In cases where print is not required, the weeding criteria for serials is generally as follows

  • Online access is available for all of the years covered in print
  • Online access is economically sustainable
  • Online access is secure, perpetual or locally loadable.  When assessing the permanency of electronic access, staff from Research Support Services will generally take the following into consideration:

    • If the title is part of a trusted digital repository (TDR). TDRs have to go through a rigorous certification process through the Center for Research Libraries that ensure financial sustainability and perpetual preservation. Scholars Portal and JSTOR are two examples of TDRs. Serials that have coverage in a TDR are very strong candidates for weeding.
    • If the title is procured from CRKN or OCUL. Serials purchased through consortia with local loading rights have greater leverage when it comes to obtaining access through Scholars Portal, as well as recovering archival files should a company be in financial default. Serial titles in this category in print are very good candidates for weeding.
    • If we own a direct subscription to a title, the print copy can be considered for weeding. Staff from Research Support Services will make a judgement call on the stability of the provider, whether direct local loading rights have been secured, and the likelihood of print even playing an important role in the research and teaching needs of the University. Serial titles in in this category in print are good candidates for weeding.
    • If the title is part of an aggregator package, the print copy may be weeded at the discretion of Research Support Services. Aggregator packages change frequently, so online access is less stable than other points of access. Weeding can still occur if the title is not an important part of the teaching and research needs of the University. Or, if staff feel comfortable, a direct subscription can be ordered if a title is dropped from an aggregator. Serial titles in this category in print are fair candidates for weeding.
    • If the title has no online access, the print copy of a serial title may still be weeded if there are multiple copies of the same issue, or if there is no longer any need to support the subject matter vis-à-vis the research and teaching needs of the University. Research Support Services staff, in consultation with the Head of Collections, will determine the desirability of weeding from this category where no equivalent online access is available.


Approved by Library Management Group, March 26, 2012
updated May 1, 2012
updated April 21, 2015
Updated June 12, 2017 (AB/KA)
Approved by Collections Committee, June 5, 2017
Approved by SSC, June 6, 2017

Content last updated: February 14, 2018