Professors speak out against Winnowing Project


Hannah Schaffer

Books in the Pelletier library are being marked for removal as part of the library’s recent Winnowing Project on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

During her report during ASG’s general assembly on Nov. 12, 2019, Vice President Elyse Cinquino, ’20,  announced that she met with Director of Public Services Aimee Reash to discuss a project that has been taking place in the Pelletier Library.

Library and Information Technology Services has been working on a Winnowing Project to refine the selection of books available in Allegheny’s library.  

“There are books being transitioned out of the library, but there is a particular criteria they have to meet in order to be taken out of our library,” Cinquino said. 

Each book in the library is evaluated based on nine criteria. Only if the book meets all nine of the criteria will it be marked with a pink bookmark that signifies it is eligible for removal from Allegheny’s library. 

To be eligible for removal, the book must have been published over 20 years ago. Additionally, the library must have had a copy of the book for at least 10 years, and had no documented circulation — meaning it hasn’t been checked out — course reserve or internal use in the last 10 years. 

If a book meets these first three criteria, LITS staff then checks to make sure the book has never had more than two documented circulations ever, and that there is no impending circular change or other reason to believe the book will be used in the future. 

LITS staff also ensures the book is available in the same edition via interlibrary loan from multiple other academic libraries and that other libraries have committed to retaining copies of the same edition of the book and making those copies available through interlibrary loan. 

Finally, LITS staff check to ensure that the same edition of the book is held by a library in the EZBorrow lending consortium and that the same edition of the book is held by at least four different academic libraries. 

“(LITS staff) are trying to make sure the books we have are ones we use,” Cinquino said. 

Every book in Pelletier Library that contains a pink slip has met all nine criteria and is eligible for removal. 

“It is a significant chunk of our books,” Ferrante said. “However, these are pretty stringent criteria.” 

Not all members of the campus and community are compliant with the Winnowing Project. 

Professor of Mathematics Anthony Lo Bello referred to the project as “vandalism” and “a huge mistake.” 

Approximately 100,000 books have been tagged with pink slips, according to Lo Bello, who estimates that he has removed approximately 20,000 to 30,000 of the slips. 

“A book is a work of art,” Lo Bello said. “Just because a book hasn’t been borrowed in 10 years doesn’t mean it is no good.” 

The tentative completion date for the project is the fall of 2021, according to Cinquino.