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New Collection Review for Retention Process

A new collections deaccessioning policy, which was developed in consultation with the Faculty Libraries Council and approved by the Office of the Provost, has recently gone into effect. The policy clarifies criteria for routine deaccessioning and ensures that faculty have an opportunity to review items identified for removal from the collections and request that they are retained.

The Washington University Libraries collections are actively curated to ensure they meet the research and teaching needs of the campus community. The initial selection of materials for acquisition is a major aspect of that curation, but, in addition, librarians must de-accession items to ensure that the overall collection remains both relevant and accessible. In making these selections, our librarians follow general professional standards of libraries and archives, as well as any requirements in a collection’s deed of gift, in addition to the standards of this policy.

The new policy outlines four criteria that will be considered for routine deaccessioning of materials:

  • Condition: Condition is a concern when an item is extensively damaged, and repair would require expensive and time-intensive conservation treatments, or cannot be repaired at all. Some examples of this damage include mold, vandalism that renders the content unusable, and large sections of missing pages. Damaged items may be replaced, but the original damaged item will still need to be removed from the collection.
  • Redundancy: Given restrictions on storage, the libraries typically strive to avoid holding multiple copies of the same item, and duplication between physical and digital collections. The libraries also consider the level of overlap between the Libraries’ holdings and those of organizations where we have reciprocal borrowing agreements, but all deaccessioning decisions must balance the needs of our community and sharing agreements with our partners.
  • Out of scope: Out of scope determinations are based on both the Libraries’ core collecting areas and its archival mission. Examples of materials that might be considered out of scope include incomplete serials sets and superseded editions.
  • Care: Materials may be considered for removal when the technologies required to access items are outdated or where the libraries cannot provide appropriate storage and management. Materials in outdated formats may be replaced, but the original item will still need to be removed from the collection.

To ensure that faculty have an opportunity to review materials that have been selected for removal from the collections, the libraries will post a list of these items on the new Review for Retention page each month. The list will remain available for a full calendar month, during which time faculty can ask questions or request that individual items be retained. At the end of the month, materials that have not been flagged for retention will be donated where possible (the Libraries typically work with Better World Books) but may be recycled where donation is not possible

Routine deaccessioning will not generally exceed 2 percent of the total collection size in any given year. Any projects which fall outside of the above criteria for “routine deaccessioning” must be approved by the Libraries administration, and undertaken in consultation with relevant faculty.

Questions or suggestions about this new policy and the associated procedure can be directed to your departmental subject librarian.