Weeding My Book Collection

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

One of my favorite library tasks is weeding, which means discarding books that are obsolete, worn, or aren’t being checked out. Weeding is just as necessary as adding books to a collection. When the clutter of non-circulating books is gone, the rest of the titles stand out even more. Weeding can breathe new life into a library’s collection and can increase circulation numbers.

I’m a pretty ruthless weeder at work, but I suddenly want to keep all the books when it comes to weeding my personal library. That paperback I got for a dollar at Goodwill seven years ago that I still haven’t read? I might want to start reading that tomorrow. That book I finished that I didn’t like very much? The cover is so pretty, so it should probably stay.

I buy books faster than I can read them, and since the space I have to keep these books is relatively small, I know it’s time to do some weeding. In an attempt to get me focused and motivated, today’s post will be about how I approach getting rid of my books: what stays, what goes, and where they go next. I hope these ideas will help you if you too are afraid that the tower of books in the corner of your home will fall on you and cause bodily harm. Let’s jump in!

What Can Go: Books That No Longer Interest Me

I’ve always liked collecting things, and books are no exception. When I become interested in a subject, I want to have books about it. Several books about it. Maybe even a lot of books about it. And sometimes I lose interest in that subject later on, but the books remain. It’s okay to get rid of books that don’t interest me anymore. 

What Can Go: Books I’ve Owned for Years and Haven’t Read

I’ve worked in libraries where books are discarded if they haven’t checked out in a year or sometimes even months. That’s not because the library didn’t value the books, but because there was no more room on the shelves. Books that weren’t being read had to go to make room for the books that were.

I have to let go of the books I’ve owned for years that I haven’t yet read. That’s a sign I’m not interested anymore, and if I become interested again someday, I can get the book again. In most cases, getting a book in my hands only takes a couple of clicks. I don’t need to keep that one title I bought in 2013 because someone told me I’d like it.

What Can Go: Books I’ve Read and Don’t Like

This one seems so obvious, but I struggle with it sometimes, usually out of obligation. If I didn’t like a book but think I should like it, I’ll probably keep it. If someone got the book for me as a gift, I’ll probably keep it. But having books on my shelf that I feel obligated to like or keep doesn’t serve me. These books could be read by people who will really appreciate them. 

What Can Stay: Books I Love

Just as important as deciding what books go is deciding what books stay. The books I love get to stay. It makes me happy to look at my bookshelves and see books that mean something to me. I like seeing my underlined copy of Gilead. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see Stoner or The Secret History, two of my most beloved booksSome books serve as souvenirs from vacations or college classes or an essential part of my growth. Those books have earned their spot on my shelf.

What Can Stay: Books That Are Part of a Special Collection

As I said, I like collecting things. Over several years, I collected all the books in the Penguin drop caps series. I also like collecting Penguin’s clothbound classics and new vitae series. I love presidential history, so the presidential biographies I own can stay put. As long as I’m still interested in my special collections, the books have earned their keep.

What Can Stay: Books I Really Do Want to Read

I know it bothers some readers to have too many unread books on their shelves, but I am not that reader. I like the idea of having a library full of books that I’m excited to pick up. It’s okay to keep unread books if I’m still looking forward to reading them.

Where the Books Go After I Weed Them

Even though I’m letting them go, I want my discarded books to have a second chance at being read. Sometimes I donate them to my school libraries if I think students or staff will be interested. Other times I donate to a local thrift store that helps unhoused people get back on their feet. I can also donate books to local library book sales, knowing that all the money earned will go directly back into the libraries that serve my community. I’ll ship and sell books to Powell’s now and then if I have newer titles I’d like to discard.


I hope these ideas were as helpful for you as writing them down was for me. What criteria do you use when deciding what to keep or weed?

One Reply to “Weeding My Book Collection”

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