Well, September's right around the corner, and with the start of the new academic year, we expect some librarians are fixin' to do some weeding this year--at least once all of those instruction sessions are over. We at SCS would like to suggest that fixin' to weed actually is an important first step, and that it's pretty straightforward. In less than a single day, it's possible to gauge the potential of a deselection project, by taking these 5 steps:
sweet spot, the potential yield of a deselection project.
How crowded are the stacks? How busy are the stacks? How crowded are study spaces? What might you do with an additional 10,000 square feet? A writing center? An expanded information commons? Some big flatscreen monitors or whiteboards for collaboration? A coffee shop?
Look at alternatives for maintaining low-use content: How many copies of the same books are also in the collections of peers or borrowing partners? Can the library join a shared print retention initiative? How many holdings are shown in WorldCat? In what other forms might the same content be available; i.e., how readily replaceable or re-accessible is it?
If the results in your library at all resemble what we've seen to date, you'll quickly move from fixin' to weed to chafin' to weed. Straightforward consideration of these five points won't take long, and will give you clear insight into the potential benefits of deselection in your own library. In effect, the data will help you make the case for deselection to yourself and your colleagues, and will echo David Maister's comment in his excellent Strategy and the Fat Smoker: "The necessary outcome of strategic planning is not insight but resolve."