Weeding, Part 1

‘Weeding will increase circulation.’

Really? Any weeding at all? Of course, you need a method to weed properly. The problem is, too many of us were never taught the right method.

Probably the most common method is C.R.E.W. (Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding) It was developed by the Texas State Library, and gives guidelines of how long to keep materials in various disciplines. Here is a link to a pdf, last updated in 2008:


There are worse ways to weed, but I’m not entirely happy with it. My gripes with CREW are two:

1. It relies on someone else’s idea of what your collection should be like- not what your library’s readers want.
2. There has never (to my knowledge) been any sort of study to show if weeding by the CREW method makes for a better, more responsive collection. It ‘sounds right’, but we don’t know if it is right.

There is a companion method to C.R.E.W., the acronym ‘MUSTIE’ Misleading, Ugly’ Superseded (new editions have come out); Trivial; Irrelevant; Elsewhere (may easily be obtained elsehwere.)

These are cute, but I’m uneasy about UGLY and ELSEWHERE. I see people reading all sorts of ugly books. I think ugly bothers librarians more than it does readers. I especially dislike weeding an item that continues to get use simply on condition. If the reader doesn’t mind condition, why should the librarian?

And Elsewhere? You gonna pitch your copies of “50 Shades of Grey” because it is readily available? What about LOCKSS? (Lots of copies keeps stuff safe.)

Next time: If CREW ain’t right, what is?

3 Comments on “Weeding, Part 1”

  1. Keri says:

    CREW works well for public libraries. I ran a mid-sized branch, and we just needed what was popular. Deep, dark research was happening at other, larger branches or local universities. “Elsewhere” was king in my book.

    Any “ugly” book I found that was still in demand was replaced by a new copy whenever possible. Torn, dirty, what-the-heck-is-that-between-those-pages books had reached the end of their useful library lives and were discarded.

    You’re right, though, you do have to choose the parameters that best fit your library.

    • Bob says:

      I’ve been hunting through the professional literature for anything on “ugly” books – exactly the phrase I’ve been using – in particular whether the appearance matters to the patron in choosing a book. So far I’ve found very little. It’s a librarian assumption that books in poor shape should be weeded, but should we replace them to give the content a better chance to be used?

      • Tony Greiner says:

        My thinking is that if there is an easyily available inexpensive copy to replace the worn one, pick it up. My concern is ugly books that are out-of-print or hard to replace in the used book market getting tossed simply because they are ugly.

        It would be an interesting experiment for a library to make an inventory of 100 ‘ugly’ books, replace 50 of them with new copies, and then compare circulation one or two years later. Probably won’t happen, but it would be interesting.

        Tony Greiner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *