Weeding a Depository Collection


Materials distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program remain Federal property and must be disposed of according to specific rules and state/regional instruction.

The weeding of depository materials is optional and different criteria apply to libraries based on their designation or library type, and the availability of a regional depository library. If your library is a depository at a Federal agency or a highest state appellate court, a regional depository, or a selective depository not served by a regional, read below for information specific to your situation.

Weeding requires depository library staff to be familiar with:

  • The various mechanisms you can use to weed your depository collections
  • The review options that your regional depository library has to authorize or not authorize your withdrawal requests
  • Exceptions to the weeding rules
  • What you can do with material once it has made it through the weeding process

All collection development decisions should be made to meet the Federal Government information needs of the depository’s users.

Weeding Depository Materials

Documents distributed through the FDLP are Federal government property. By law, regional depository libraries are responsible for the disposal process in their state/region. Selective depository libraries must consult with their regional depository library for specific instructions on the procedures to be followed when discarding depository materials. In most cases, regional permission must be granted prior to the withdrawal of depository publications.

Regional Instructions for Selective Libraries to Withdraw Materials

Regional libraries are responsible for managing the withdrawal process in a timely and judicious manner. In managing the discards of selective libraries in their region, the regional depository library will issue instructions to selectives on the prescribed discard procedures for depositories.

If regional instructions require selectives to submit a withdrawal or disposal list, the regional library will check the list for any publications that may be missing from the regional depository collection. The goal is to ensure that at least one copy of all depository publications, in paper, microfiche, or tangible electronic format, (except those authorized to be discarded by the Superintendent of Documents) is retained by a depository within the state or region. To achieve that, the regional needs the assistance of selectives in their region.

After regional review and acquisition of needed resources, selectives in the state or region have the right to review lists and acquire needed materials. Contact the regional depository library to discuss the local procedures.

In an effort to ensure broad access, regional depository libraries may also offer duplicate or superseded depository publications to other depository libraries in the state or region.

Please note, only the first copy of a depository publication is considered the depository copy; additional copies may be discarded without regional permission. Non-FDLP materials may be disposed of at the discretion of individual libraries. When in doubt as to weeding depository materials, contact your regional depository librarian for the procedures and best practices specific to your geographic area.

Determining what qualifies to be weeded

Depository material qualifies to be weeded from your collection in three ways:

  1. Superseded publications
  2. Substituted publications
  3. 5-year rule

Read below for specific information about the methods listed above.

In most cases, permission to withdraw must be granted by the regional. If you have any questions about weeding in general, supersession, or substitution, consult your regional depository library for guidance. Regional depository libraries direct the process for their states or regions.

1. Superseded Publications

Depository material that meets the supersession criteria may be disposed of at any time without requesting permission to do so from a regional library. Note that if superseded publications continue to be useful to the library’s users, you may retain them for your library's collection.

There are some regionals that have made a collection development decision to retain superseded materials. In these instances, the regional will communicate this information to the selective depositories in the state or region through the state plan or discard procedures. Selectives should provide these resources, if withdrawn, to the regional depository per any state or region agreements. Depositories should note that they are not required to dispose of superseded materials if they do not wish to do so.

Supersession Criteria

Materials may be superseded at any time if they meet the following criteria. In determining the eligibility for supersession, depository coordinators should use their professional judgment in determining titles that can be superseded.

Dated material - libraries may discard when expired
  • For material that advertises an event or activity with a limited time frame, libraries may discard the publication after the time period has ended.
Revised by a new edition/issue – libraries may discard earlier edition when revised edition is made available (tangible or online)
  • One format may supersede another format. For example, a revised online edition may supersede an earlier print edition. If there are gaps between the two versions, for example missing appendices, the tangible edition may not be superseded by the online version.
  • Many publications contain statements on the cover(s) or in the prefatory material indicating that the publication revises or supersedes one or more previous editions.
  • Loose-leaf pages replaced by new pages are considered superseded and may be discarded.
  • A final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) does not supersede the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS or DEIS) version.
A reprint edition – libraries may discard the original edition when reprint edition is published
  • If a reprint edition is distributed through the FDLP, the original edition may be discarded by the depository, even if that depository has deselected the item number and does not possess the new edition.
Replaced by a cumulative edition – libraries may discard non-cumulative materials
  • Earlier non-cumulative materials may be superseded and discarded upon receipt of the cumulative bound volumes, issues, or products.
Replaced by a corrected copy – libraries may discard the original copy
  • When a corrected copy replaces a publication previously distributed through the FDLP, the publication that was initially distributed should be removed from the collection and discarded.
  • “Star prints” are corrected versions of some congressional materials. They are identifiable by a star printed at the lower left-hand corner of their title or cover pages; sometimes the words "star print" also appear adjacent to the star. The original copy may or may not have been distributed through the FDLP. If the original copy was received, it should be removed from the collection and discarded.
  • Copies of all types of corrected publications are identifiable by the /CORR at the end of the Superintendent of Documents classification number.

Superseded List and Guidelines

You may use the 2002 Superseded List (last updated online through 2009) as a reference source for additional examples of specific publications that are superseded or have special considerations. The 1996 Superseded List has an explanation of the notations included in the front. If you are using the 2002 Superseded List, please consult the 1996 edition for the background information.

Use of the Superseded List may highlight exceptions to the supersession criteria, or special rules, that you may be unaware of. For example:

  • Title 3 of the CFR does not cumulate and therefore must be retained for a minimum 5 year period.
  • All other titles of the CFR are revised on an annual basis and may be withdrawn upon receipt of the latest part.
  • The daily Federal Register, while not cumulated, has special instructions that read “keep latest year plus previous year.”
  • The daily edition of the Congressional Record is superseded by the bound edition. Do not discard the daily issues before receipt of all parts and indexes of the bound set for that volume.

Need more supersession and substitution information?

Best practices, examples, and considerations can be found in Best Practices When Superseding and Substituting.

Information for Regional Libraries

  • Regional depositories must permanently retain at least one tangible copy of every publication received through depository distribution, except for those publications that meet the supersession criteria defined in these guidelines.
  • Some regional depositories have agreed that some superseded materials should be retained for long-term public access. This is a consensus agreement between the regionals, not a legal requirement of 44 U.S.C. §1912. If the regional depository library is collecting superseded publications, this information should be noted for the selectives in the state plan or discard procedures.

2. Substitution of Depository Materials

Substitution involves replacing one format of a publication with the same content in another format. Depository material that meets the substitution criteria may be disposed of with permission from a regional library. There are two types of substitution.

Tangible Substitution

Tangible substitution involves substituting depository material with content in another tangible format, paper, microfiche, CD/DVD, etc. This may be done, for example, when libraries replace print holdings with commercial microfiche.

  • Regional depositories engaging in tangible substitution should keep the interests of the state or region they serve in mind. For example, will the library be able to fulfil interlibrary loan services with the substitute format?
  • Substituted material must have proper reading equipment available, be properly referenced, and easily accessible to all users.
  • Any materials retained in lieu of the depository copy are then treated as depository property for the period of time that the library would have retained the original publications. The materials are subject to FDLP requirements during that time period.

Online Substitution

Online substitution involves replacing tangible depository material with an online equivalent. This is typically done when an online format is preferred.

  • Selective depository libraries are permitted to substitute with online equivalents provided:
    • The tangible publication has been held for at least one year
    • The regional depository has approved the disposal of the tangible
    • The online version is:
      • Official
      • Complete
      • Free of charge to the user
  • No library is required to substitute online versions for tangible materials.

Substitution Criteria for Online Substitution

In determining the eligibility for online substitution, depository coordinators should use their professional judgment in determining what titles may be substituted. Titles appearing below are not the only titles that can be substituted; they are merely examples:

  • Any complete title that appears on FDsys. Examples are the Federal Register, the U. S. Government Manual, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Code of Federal Regulations.
    • Note that some titles on FDsys, such as Congressional Hearings, do not have comprehensive coverage. If the online content is not comprehensive, libraries may not substitute wholesale.
  • Any title for digitized material from content partnerships. Examples are titles from the Cybercemetery, the Homeland Security Digital Library, Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN), floppy disks included in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Floppy Disk Project, etc.
How do you know if the online version of a publication is official?
  • Its content is published by the Federal Government, at Government expense, or as required by law.
  • GPO only catalogs official Government publications, so a quick check of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) will help you determine if it qualifies.
  • Note: inclusion of a PURL in a cataloging record does not automatically mean that it qualifies for substitution. The publication linked to in the PURL must meet all requirements for substitution.
How do you know if the online version of a publication is complete?
  • There is no definitive way to determine if an online version is complete without comparing it to the tangible publication. Content to look for includes, but is not limited to, supplements, a table of contents, appendices, and images or charts.
What constitutes ‘free of charge’?
  • All users must be able to access the content at no cost. If the library substitutes with subscription databases, free access must be provided onsite.

Need more substitution and superseding information?

Best practices, examples, and considerations can be found in Best Practices When Superseding and Substituting.

3. Five-year Rule

The third and most common way material becomes eligible for withdrawal, is through the five-year rule. Selective depository libraries may withdraw depository material after holding the material for five years—dated from the date of receipt, shipping list date, or date of processing. Permission to withdraw must be granted by the regional.

Working With Your Regional

One of the legal responsibilities of a regional is to maintain a tangible copy of depository titles within a state or region. Regional depository coordinators may handle withdrawal or substitution requests differently.

  • Guidelines may be incorporated into the State Plan.
  • A Selective Housing Agreement between the Regional and another institution (typically a selective depository) is a mechanism to house regional copies elsewhere.
  • A regional's disposal guidelines may include cooperation among depositories to ensure that one or more libraries in a state or region retain a tangible version.

If permission to substitute is not granted, the selective must keep the tangible material but may apply at a later date for approval to dispose of the tangible products.

If permission to substitute is granted, the tangible materials must be offered to the regional and other selectives through disposal or withdrawal lists following the established practice.

Discards by Libraries without a Regional

Selective depository libraries not served by a designated regional depository library must permanently retain one copy of all Federal government publications selected and received. Exceptions are made for superseded publications and those issued later in another format (bound, microfiche, or electronic media).

Discards by Federal Libraries

Federal libraries do not need to retain publications for five years before discarding nor do they have to discard depository materials through the regional depository library. All depository materials remain the property of the United States Government. Those wishing to dispose of depository materials should contact the Exchange and Gift Division of the Library of Congress for directions on discarding.

Specific instructions must be obtained from the following address:

Receiving and Routing Section
Exchange and Gift Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4280

P: (202) 707-9514
F: (202) 707-2086

Discards by Highest State Appellate Court Libraries

Highest State Appellate Court libraries do not need to retain publications for five years before discarding nor do they have to discard depository materials through the regional depository library. All depository materials remain the property of the United States Government.

The Withdrawal Process

When overseeing the withdrawal of material in the state or region, regional depositories have to make decisions about which withdrawal requests to authorize or not. Understanding the needs of the state or region entails knowing, for example:

  • What is rare in the state?
  • Where are extra copies of material needed?
  • Who has cataloged their older material and who hasn’t?
  • Who intends to retain their older material and who won’t be keeping it?
  • What is the condition of the regional collection? Does anything need to be replaced with better quality or bound copies?

By law regionals develop the comprehensive collection for the state or region. As such they establish a process to achieve that goal.

Regional depositories may deny or reject a withdrawal request if they cannot house the material, if they cannot find another location for it, or if they know the material is needed in that general vicinity.

Regional Options When Managing Withdrawal Requests

Regionals have four options to review withdrawal requests. In practice, most regionals combine the options below in order to meet the immediate needs and special circumstances of the regional(s) and selectives in the state or region.

  1. They can require a library to submit a ‘needs and offers’, a ‘withdrawal’, or a ‘discard’ list. There are several synonyms for needs and offers used in different regions.
  2. They can do an ‘in-person review’, also known as ‘eye-balling’ a collection.
  3. They can provide a ‘needs list’ of material that the regional knows is needed in the region, which selectives must compare with their prospective withdrawals.
  4. They can provide a ‘do NOT need’ list, which is a list of material that is confirmed not to be needed in the regional collection.

The four regional options for withdrawal are further explained below.

  1. The needs and offers, withdrawal, or discard list
    • It is a list of what the selective wishes to withdraw.
      • Regionals determine what information is required on the list, the format of the list, and how many lists are required. It may contain the SuDocs number, title, publication year, item number, etc.
      • The list may be shared through email, or may be shared through a database that your region or association has created, or through other means as determined by the regional depository library.
    • Selectives are advised to contact their regional before a weeding project begins as regionals have authority to exempt certain categories from listing (such as microfiche).
    • Regionals have the first claim on material being offered; selectives in the state or region have second claim.
    • After libraries in the state or region, it is optional to share the withdrawal list with others, for example, through GPO’s National Needs and Offers List.
  2. ‘In-person review’ or “eye-balling” a collection option
    • The regional coordinator makes a site visit to a library and looks at the collection, giving instructions on what to do with material.
    • This option requires the regional be very familiar with their own collection and the needs of the state or region.
  3. “Needs List” option
    • The institutions (selectives and regionals) in a region list titles, date ranges, or agency publications that are known needs. The list is searched during the withdrawal process, sending any material needed by others to that institution. If it is not on the list, they can withdraw it.
    • This option requires that the regional and selectives know what they need and have found time to document it and to maintain it as well.
  4. Do NOT need list option
    • Regionals can compile all the withdrawal lists searched in the near past, flip it around and tell their selectives that they do not need to offer anything on that compiled list. The reasoning is that the regional and selectives have already searched their collections and do not need the material listed, so anything remaining on the lists does not need to be searched for again.
    • This option requires that the regional knows how many copies they need, where they need them, and is in regular communication with their selectives regarding selective needs. The regional must update or maintain that Do NOT Need list in order to prevent offered material from being discarded.
Local Practices Predominate

Some states:

  • Schedule what SuDocs range can be offered in each month
  • Have special procedures to follow if regional materials are housed in other libraries
  • Offer publications to specific institutions based on prior agreements or arrangements
  • Make use of the ASERL disposition database or other similar tool
  • Request postage reimbursement when material is claimed

Withdrawing Material

The withdrawal process for non-superseded material is concluded when:

  • Material has been offered to the regional and selectives in the state or region,
  • Everyone has claimed the material they need from the list and it has been sent to them,
  • The remaining material on the list has been authorized for discard.

At that point, libraries may remove the material that has been approved for withdrawal. Superseded material may be withdrawn at any time.

Libraries should update their catalog and/or shelflist to reflect that the material is no longer there.

GPO recommends that withdrawn material be stamped or marked as such.

Material may be:

  • Placed on GPO’s National Needs & Offers List which is open to anyone to claim material,
  • Given away to other libraries or institutions who can make use of the materials,
  • Recycled,
  • Put in the trash.
Sale of Materials

Libraries may not make any money on the sale of the withdrawn material. Any exchange of funds must be sent to the Superintendent of Documents.

For more information on weeding please see the recorded webcast.