Update: April 10, 2012

At the April faculty meeting last week I did a short presentation on the status of the weeding project.  Here is a summary of the presentation and of the questions following it:

In the past several months we have gotten many objections to the word ‘weeding,’ and many suggestions for what to call this project instead, including, but not limited to, the ones above. But the issue seems to be less with what the project is called than with what the project is.

What is the project?  The objective is to reduce the size of our collections by 60,000 volumes, to make room for new books and to move the Art Library into Olin.

Wesleyan’s libraries have 1.5 million items.  Of these, over 750,000 volumes are in the circulating collections; they are the books that check out.  We decided to focus on the circulating collections for this project, since we know how often each book has checked out since 1996.  This is not the only way books are used, of course, but it is a way to eliminate often-used books from the withdrawal candidate pool.

Criteria for withdrawal candidates:  Since it is not practicable to evaluate 750,000 books for possible withdrawal, we needed to find a way to reduce that number.

We worked with a library consulting firm, Sustainable Collection Services, to come up with a list of criteria for withdrawal candidates.  In order to be a candidate for withdrawal, a book had to meet all of these criteria:

  • published before 1990,
  • added to Wesleyan’s collection before 2003,
  • circulated less than twice since 1996,
  • held by 30 or more libraries in the United States,
  • held by two or more of our Connecticut partner libraries (that is, Connecticut College, Trinity College and University of Connecticut, Storrs).

Withdrawal candidates:  The books that fit all the criteria came to about 12% of the circulating collection, or 90,000 books.  This graph shows the total number of circulating books per LC classification, with the green section of each bar indicating the books not being considered for withdrawal, and the red section indicating the withdrawal candidates.

Classification P, Languages and Literatures, is so large that it is out of scale with the other classifications.  Within the P class, 199,938 books are not candidates for withdrawal, while 31,134 are withdrawal candidates.

We will end up withdrawing about 8% of the books in the circulating collection, or 4% of our total holdings.  This is not an insignificant number.  But the withdrawn books are held in many other libraries, so they are available through interlibrary loan if needed by Wesleyan students or faculty.  And usable electronic versions of old and new books will become increasingly available in the next few decades.

Reviewing the lists:  Wesleyan’s faculty, emeritus faculty, and librarians have been invited to review the withdrawal candidate lists and indicate which books should be retained by the library.  The lists are at: http://libr.wesleyan.edu/weeding/fac/fac_weeding.php

The deadline for faculty review has been staggered into three rounds, with a fourth round if necessary:

  • May 31, 2012 deadline:  Round 1 (A–G classifications)
  • Oct. 31, 2012 deadline: Round 2 (P classification)
  • Mar. 31, 2013 deadline: Round 3 (H-N and Q-Z classifications)
  • Dec. 31, 2013 deadline: Round 4 (only if withdrawal target is not met)

Withdrawn volumes:  This summer we will begin pulling from the shelves and withdrawing Round 1 books faculty have not marked for retention.  What will happen to the books once they are withdrawn?

They will first be made available for Wesleyan faculty and departments to add to their office collections.  For Round 1 books, they will begin to be available in late summer or early fall.  The remaining books will be offered in a Friends of the Library book sale later in the fall.  Any books that do not sell in the book sale will be taken by B-Logistics, a company committed to the sustainable disposition of library materials.  They will sell the books they can, sharing the proceeds with the library. The books they cannot sell will be recycled.

The second and third rounds will proceed in a very similar way.  At the end of the third round, or the fourth round if it is necessary, we will conduct a major shift of the stacks in Olin to make room for the Art Library collections.

Space for Art in Olin:  A committee of Art and Art History faculty, with the library and students, are developing a proposal for an Art space in Olin, designed to meet the needs of students and faculty.   Once approved the space will be created before the move of the Art Library in the summer of 2014.


Did you cost out the creation and maintenance of a facility to store these books instead of withdrawing them?  Alternatively, did you cost out the installation of additional compact shelving in the Science Library or in Olin?

No, we did not.  We decided that the cost of creating and maintaining a storage facility or additional compact shelving, for books that have gotten very little use over a long period of time, would be better spent either acquiring new resources that would get more use, and/or to create better study spaces.

Are libraries working together on state-wide or regional repositories of print books?

Yes, I attended a meeting last summer with many academic libraries in the Northeast, to explore creating a regional repository so that the complete scholarly record in monograph form is preserved in its original form.  Although there are not as yet plans to create this repository here, there is a repository in the Western U.S.  The private repositories of Harvard and Stanford preserve large parts of the scholarly record, although they are not easily accessible to scholars elsewhere.

Did you look at how other libraries have successfully conducted similar projects, so they might act as a model for the project here at Wesleyan?

Yes, we worked with the library consulting firm, Sustainable Collection Services, and they gave us advice based on their experience working with many other libraries.  Vassar College and Bard College have done similar projects in the past, and their experiences were particularly helpful as we designed this project.  In an academic library, weeding projects are always controversial–even those that are successful—because of the importance to research in maintaining the entire scholarly record.

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