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Deselection of Materials

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The vitality of a library's collections depends not only upon vigorous collection development but also upon careful collection management. In order to enhance the library's value and utility, care must be taken to insure that its collections are properly maintained. One important aspect of this process is the deselection of materials that no longer support the mission of the college or the purpose of the library's collections.

The process of deselecting materials requires as much care as the process of selection itself. It is especially important that deselection be viewed within the broader context of the library's collection development programs and policies. Like collection development, deselection of materials is a consultative endeavor involving library staff, faculty members, and other parties as appropriate. This document describes policy guidelines governing the deselection of library materials. It does not provide detailed procedures for implementing these guidelines. Other detailed procedural documents covering different types of deselection are written as necessary and reviewed by appropriate bodies.

Objectives of Deselection

  • To make the most effective use of shelf space
    Shelving of library materials is inherently expensive. Sufficient stack space is also lacking in some campus libraries. Deselection may be necessary to remove materials that are not needed and provide space for new acquisitions
  • To utilize acquisitions funds in the most effective manner
    Cancellation of unnecessary subscriptions frees acquisitions funds to acquire other titles that are more responsive to current teaching and research needs.
  • To increase the relevance of the existing collections to current curricular needs
    Removing dated or irrelevant titles from the shelves facilitates browsing by students and faculty.
  • To maintain the collections in an acceptable physical condition

Types of Deselection

  • Weeding
    Weeding is the permanent removal of a title from the collections. Categories of weeding include the routine weeding of superseded editions of titles received on standing order. Another category of weeding involves individual types of materials (e.g. pamphlets, musical scores, recordings, and government documents) which are weeded according to separate criteria and procedures for each material type. Title-by-title weeding of unused volumes no longer relevant to the curriculum or current research needs is a third category.
  • Journal cancellations
    Deselecting or canceling journals is part of the continuous process of evaluating the Library's collections. Journal subscriptions are evaluated regularly to assess their relevance to curriculum and research programs as well as their cost and usage. Titles no longer relevant to current needs, overpriced (relative to use), underused (regardless of price), or appropriately accessible through interlibrary borrowing or electronic transmission are candidates for cancellation.

Criteria for Deselection

  • Titles outside the collecting scope of the library
    Titles no longer relevant to current curricular or research needs and therefore not within the scope of the library's current collection development policies may be removed from the collections or (in the case of subscriptions) canceled.
  • Obsolescence
    Titles that contain obsolete information (e.g. legal or medical reference works) may be deselected because the information they contain is out-of-date, invalid, inaccurate, or incomplete.
  • Redundancy
    Copies or editions of titles may be deselected to minimize redundancy of holdings. Individual titles containing information found elsewhere in the collection may also be deselected for this purpose.
  • Infrequently used materials
    Titles not used by current faculty and students or lent to other libraries via interlibrary loan may be deselected.
  • Physical Condition
    Materials may be deselected due to poor physical condition. Many current newspapers are routinely retained for stated periods and then discarded or replaced in microform. Deteriorating books are evaluated for preservation and withdrawn if necessary. Replacement copies are sought as appropriate and available.

Cautions, Restrictions, and Safeguards

The same care and caution used in purchasing or accepting a title as a gift is exercised in deselection. Deselection decisions are carefully considered and subject to the conditions listed below.

  • The process of deselection must not discourage gifts of useful or valuable materials, endanger the good will of library donors, or diminish public confidence in the Library. In individual cases of deselection, the wishes of donors, insofar as they can be determined, must be honored.
  • Titles to be deselected must bear no legal restrictions forbidding disposal.
  • Appropriate consultation with faculty must be insured. This is essential whenever deselection is not routine, for example, journals cancellations or the weeding of subject areas or groups of titles.
  • Funds realized from the sale of materials deselected will be used only to acquire other titles for the library collections.
  • To avoid conflict of interest, or the appearance of it, great care will be exercised when considering the sale of deselected titles to any member of the college community.

Special Collections Deselection

Deselection of items from Special Collections, while occurring within the general guidelines outlined above, also adheres to more stringent, specific criteria and procedures.

Criteria for Deselection of Special Collection Titles

  • Relevance to collection development policy
    Except for considerations involving redundancy and physical condition as described below, titles will be considered for deselection only if they are no longer relevant to current or anticipated curricular or research needs and are not within the scope of the collection development policy for Special Collections.
  • Redundancy
    Copies or editions of titles in Special Collections that duplicate existing holdings may be considered for deselection.
  • Physical Condition
    Materials may be deselected from Special Collections because of their physical condition. Great care will be exercised in assessing the physical condition of a title before any such deselection decision is made. All appropriate efforts will be made to preserve valuable titles.


  • The Head of Special Collections will be responsible for identifying potential items for deselection and will make a recommendation to the Collection Development Librarian and the Director when appropriate.
  • Appropriate faculty members will normally be consulted, and a check made to insure that no legal or other restrictions are attached to gifts or bequests.
  • Items of significant monetary value considered for deselection will be appraised.
  • Items of substantial monetary value will normally be deselected only after consultation with The General Faculty Library Committee and the Provost.


  • The Heads of Special Collections and Collection Development will seek and arrange the best sale, auction, or exchange possibility, or other suitable method of disposal, that will benefit the Library.
  • Special Collections will maintain a record of every deselected item.
  • To avoid conflict of interest, or the appearance of it, no direct sale will be made to any members of the following groups connected to Oberlin College: The Board of Trustees, the Visiting Committee of the Library, the Library staff, or any Oberlin College faculty or staff.

Funds realized

Funds realized from the sale of materials from Special Collections will be used only to acquire other materials for the library collections. When appropriate, new materials will be acquired in the name of the original donor.

Last updated:
August 25, 2012