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School Library Handbook


Always consult your school or district’s collection development policy, selection policy and/or weeding policy for criteria in developing your library collections. That is the main guideline for the collection. If your district does not have a collection development policy that outlines the selection and weeding criteria, then developing a policy is a critical next step. More information about selection policies can be found in the “Policies” section of this document.


The best part about school libraries is that they are more than just print materials: they are e-resources, audio, visual, and now, maker spaces.  Print materials are still critical, but additional formats enhance student education. Many helpful resources are available to aid in material selection. These come in the form of reviews, vendors, webinars, online courses, and more. Also, Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s) can offer valuable insight. Following are some general guidelines for beefing up your collection or starting from scratch.


Community: Identify who is using your library and what they need. School libraries differ from public and other types of libraries in the materials they select because the needs of their communities are different. When making selection decisions, keep in mind why your community is using your type of library.


Quality of the collection is another factor to consider. Is the collection current? When Pluto lost its planet status, librarians had the unseemly task of weeding those now-inaccurate books from the collection and purchasing new books with accurate information. This is especially relevant to the non-fiction collection, but the fiction section also needs to contain contemporary literature. Sometimes classics are revamped by publishers with updated covers to make them more appealing to kids. Despite the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” many kids, and adults for that matter, are reluctant to read books that sport outdated covers or time-yellowed pages. That being said, age-appropriate classics certainly have a place in the 21st century school library. Making sure that the collection contains reliable, accurate, and current information is the goal.


Budget is a critical component of building the library collection. As the manager of the library it is important to utilize those funds for the best interest of the school community. Buying materials without following selection policy guidelines, not utilizing reviews (or exploring them firsthand), or not listening to the needs of the school community is not good management. This can result in poor quality materials, irrelevant, or inaccurate resources. This is not what our students deserve. Making good decisions is time-consuming and sometimes difficult without the proper information. Vendors like Follett, Mackin, and Junior Library Guild offer material selection services tailored to fit your collection and budget. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity, especially when we are talking about a school library!


The school collection should contain items that:

·     Support curriculum and standards

·     Are appropriate for the school community– developmentally and intellectually

·     Are of interest to the school community

·     Have favorable reviews and recommendations

·     Are representative of different viewpoints

·     Are current, relevant, accurate, and from reputable publishers

·     Are in a variety of formats– print, ebooks, graphic novels, apps, audio, video, magazines, databases, websites, music


Along with developing your school library collection by acquiring new materials comes the challenging task of removing outdated and unused items that take up valuable space. This is the task of deselection, aka weeding, an important part of the life cycle of a library collection. Weeding an old and rugged collection can be very refreshing; trying to weed a fairly contemporary collection can be very challenging. Some items seem obvious to pull from the collection because they are beat up, past the point of any more repairs, or simply reflect outdated design. Other items may look new and attractive, but contain misinformation, are no longer relevant to the curriculum or school community, or are unused duplicates. Some items can be replaced; some items should go away forever.


No matter the situation, weeding is a necessary part of collection maintenance. Quality school libraries are dynamic, relevant, and ever-changing to meet the needs of the population they serve.


Reasons for weeding include:

  • Keep collection relevant to the community you serve
  • Reduce overcrowding
  • Easier for students and teachers to find what they are looking for
  • Make space for new items
  • Ensure your library has current, accurate materials
  • Keep your collection fresh and attractive


Many resources are available to make the job easier and to make sure the weeding is consistent. However, the first step in weeding a school library collection is to check the school and district’s collection development/deselection policy.


Using a reliable weeding method such as CREW or MUSTY/MUSTIE provides structure and direction when undertaking this task. It also provides accountability measures in the event that a stakeholder misunderstands the intent of weeding. More information about these methods is found in the links on this page. Some of these resources also cover what to do with the items you have weeded, such as recycling or donating them. 


Article about weeding from School Library Journal:

CREW Method:

MUSTY Method:

FRESH Method:







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Your library may license resources not listed here. Please check with your local library for a complete list of available resources.

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