Short-term Collection Space Management Project Plan


The Washington University Libraries are facing a critical collection space shortage.   Libraries are at peak operational capacity when shelves are 75% full.  In the fall of 2017, a survey of library locations across campus revealed that every library location is currently operating far beyond operational capacity.

Library % full*
Olin 86
West Campus 86
Art & Architecture 120
Business 105
Chemistry 116
Earth & Planetary Sciences 115
East Asian 135
Law 108
Music 112
Physics 104


This impacts our ability to accommodate new books and print journals arriving in the Libraries, which in turn impacts our users’ ability to locate those materials on our shelves.


The Libraries must free up space to accommodate continued growth and improved access to print materials across the Danforth and West campuses.   An essential requirement for achieving this goal is the re-initiation of de-accessioning.  The target is to remove approximately 95,000 volumes, or less than 2% of the Libraries’ total print holdings.

The Project will implement a process that allows the Libraries to selectively remove outdated reference works and bound journals while maintaining access to materials critical for faculty and student success.

In many cases, the Libraries have purchased journal archives in electronic format, such as JSTOR. Our access is perpetual because we have purchased the materials outright. In other cases, the Libraries’ consortial library partners provide trusted repositories for electronic access to their holdings, thereby expanding our users’ access to information beyond what the Libraries have purchased and/or subscribe to.


The project is limited to collections housed in the Olin Library System (Olin Library, West Campus Library, Chemistry Library, East Asian Library, Gaylord Music Library, Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Physics Library, Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, Al and Ruth Kopolow Library at Olin Business School, Law Library, and Ronald Rettner Earth & Planetary Sciences Library) and does not include the Bernard Becker Medical Library or the Brown School Library.

Monographs and other formats are not included for this project. (See a Glossary of the project plan.) Only print journals and outdated reference materials that meet the following criteria will be eligible for de-accessioning during this project:

  • Bound journals that are also available online from ejournal archives purchased by the Libraries (including JSTOR and ScienceDirect)
  • Bound journals that are also available online from stable open access sources (including Harvard’s Astrophysics Data System and PubMed Central from the National Institutes of Health)
  • Outdated reference materials such as style guides, test prep and study guides, or superseded editions
  • Incomplete holdings of bound journals which are not indexed in major indexes and are available through interlibrary loan

The Libraries will develop long-term collection management strategies which may build on the approaches outlined in this Project.


The Project Plan as vetted by Faculty Library Committee:

  1. The Libraries will inform Faculty about the Project through in-department presentations, newsletters, website, and email.
  2. The Libraries, under the direction of the Vice Provost and University Librarian and the Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Access Services, will identify items for de-accessioning that match one or more of the “Criteria for de-accessioning…” located on page 2 of Collection Management Guidelines and Procedures.
  3. The Libraries will post lists of eligible titles for an eight-week comment period.
  4. The Vice Provost and University Librarian will regularly email faculty with status updates throughout the Project and subject librarians will follow up to encourage participation and review.
  5. Faculty can request items be removed from consideration for this project by consulting with their subject librarians.
  6. Items identified for de-accessioning will be processed for withdrawal and the catalog holdings will be updated. A record of de-accessioned items will be kept along with the decision date.
  7. The WU community will be allowed to remove de-accessioned materials after Libraries staff have completed their work provided it is not disruptive to staff workflows. The requestor must retrieve any de-accessioned items before a specified date.
  8. De-accessioned items will be recycled for paper pulp.