Non-Fiction Donations?

Bev Colquett has a situation that many of us deal with often.

  Weeding - Someone recently donated 4 boxes of books to the church library. Many of them deal with marriage, child rearing, etc. but are already  12-15 years old. Are there guidelines for discarding books on subjects such as these after a certain period of time?  
    We have a very small library and do not use an electronic catalog so I would be typing cards for all of these books. It just seems like a waste because the books are so old. I know with a regular library, you have guidelines for anything dealing with science, etc. for removal .

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  • I worked at a large metropolitan library (with over 25 branches) as a library specialist in the sciences department.  They weeded older copies of "The Merck Index - An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals" which was a real loss of historical information ( for someone like me, a chemistry major and later professor)  just because there were newer editions. But more recently, my church started a new library and I thought of the classics from 20 years earlier when I was the church librarian and did selection, but I wasn't sure because they were all rather old.  Then I discovered that in many cases, books that were classics a generation or so ago have been updated  and revised.  So I think you have to skim through these and definitely get a second opinion.  

  • A little late to the discussion but hope this helps someone. Here is the link to the CREW method - I have used this method as a Children's Librarian and as a non-children's librarian (Adult has too many negative conotations). . As a church libarian I don't follow the dates as strengently except in science and medical because that information is always changing. Because we have a large theological reference section and Christian section with lots of classics as well as newer books we will hold on to those as well. Hope this helps someone.

    CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries | TSLAC
    CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries (PDF) revised in 2012 to include a section on e-books! CREW: Addendum on e-books (PDF) addendum to CREW 2…
  • If there are titles that you want, consider having a library wish list that you post publicly. Sometimes people are motivated to give donations based on the list simply by knowing the need.

    • Good idea, thank you.

  • Hi there, Bev!

    For our library (4500 items) we have a policy for donations, that basically is:  we take all.  If you want us to give any back if we can not use them, please keep them separate. We reserve the right to dispose of as we see fit.  We might gift another library or donate to Total Impact who are beginning their library.  We prefer books printed since 2010 with obvious exceptions.  For example, since we are in NC, we keep everything about Outer Banks and Billy Graham including everything he wrote. In parenting, I keep Dobson.  Also, before I process anything, I am looking if it has been revised or updated. If so, I purchase the newer book and give the older away.  I hope this helps.

    • Thanks for your input!

  • I am curious if anyone has guidelines for the copyright dates of non-fiction books to weed out and for accepting donations. I've discovered books for parents and for married couples are time sensitive. I've heard comments such as "content is out of date for today's families." Health books too.

    • I used the CREW weeding method from the Texas State Library when I was a public library director.  To me weeding the collection is different from weeding the donations received.  We received so many donations at the public library that I had to make a decision much more quickly.  That is one reason I would use the five-year guidelines. 

      CREW guidelines are very helpful, but as a church librarian, I don't have the time to devote to collection development and weeding as it should be done.  There would be a gap in coverage if I wasn't able to replace the books I weeded, and replacing them with new ones would be costly.  We used to have $1000 a month to spend on books from the church budget, but now we rely strictly on donations.  So, using the five year guideline is not good for us when weeding the collection.  


  • The first thing I ask is. Do you want them back? If they do I don't accept them. I also tell them if I can't use them can I donate them to another library. I then go through them and keep what I want then donate the others. If I find any not appropriate for my library I discard them. If I find a box of items left and no note on them I do what I want with them.


    Gloria Sexton

    East Maryville Baptist Church Library

  • I have certainly struggled with this and have not come up with anything that can be applied to everything.  I look at the subject matter.  Do we already have an excess on the subject?  Or not?  Who's it by?  When it  comes to "scripturally sound", sometimes older is better.  Are books on this topic being checked out now?  I look at reviews.  The appearance of the item enters into it, too.  Not just the cover, but the font used.  Generally speaking, you know your "customers."  Sometimes just asking myself, "will this be checked out?" is enough to make a decision. 

    As for items already on the shelf like commentaries, I'm more inclined to look at how recently they've been checked out and who has been checkig them out.  I don't want to get rid of something that's a favorite resource for teachers, leaders, etc.  Collections from J. Vernon McGee and Warren Wiersbe will always remain because of their popularity/readability.  We are blessed to receive donations on a regular basis and it's a challenge to wade through all of it.  Praying for wisdom is a given.

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