Collection Development Policy

We mentioned policies earlier, but this one is so important we'll talk about it in more detail. The collection development policy helps you define your community and your collection development goals. It has several parts, which we will discuss briefly. Your library probably already has a collection development policy, if not this will help you create one. If your library does have a policy, hopefully, this will help clarify it. In addition, the State Library has produced a publication entitled Collection Management Policy Guidelines for Public, Academic, Institutional and Special Libraries. This publication can help when writing or updating your policy. You can find this document here .

The mission of the library and a description of the clientele it serves

You should include your library's mission, so that people understand what your library does. It doesn't have to be long; it simply needs to indicate your role in the community. A broad description of your community helps with selection. If you have a lot of children in your community, you'll need to develop a strong children's collection. If you have older residents in your community, you may need to develop areas about medicine and/or health. The library should be a reflection of the community, so you want to make sure you understand whom it is that you are serving.

Intellectual Freedom

Libraries have historically supported the cause of intellectual freedom. The American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom has created several documents on the subject. Many libraries refer or include a few of these documents in their collection development policies. Perhaps the most often referred to document is the "Freedom to Read Statement," which addresses the importance of the freedom to read what a person chooses. It is fundamental to democracy. You can find the "Freedom to Read Statement" on ALA's website:

ALA Freedom to Read Statement

Identify formats and subjects to be added to the collection

This is the place that can be most helpful in selecting new materials. If you are a new librarian, find your library's selection policy in order to determine what you should order. You need to identify what you are going to select for your collection. This should be related to your mission. If you are focusing on being a popular reading library, then you'll want to purchase best sellers and other popular fiction and non-fiction. If your mission is to support education, you may want to focus on developing a strong non-fiction collection. Besides identifying what subjects you might want to buy, you also need to look at which formats you want. This decision is based upon the needs of your community, as well as the feasibility of the format in a public library. For example pop-up books may be cute, but they wouldn't last long in a public library. These are the types of things to consider and possibly mention in your collection development policy.

When we think of formats we remember print, audio, and video, but should also consider electronic resources. By electronic resources, we mean electronic books, online magazines, DVD's and CD-ROMS. Electronic resources can be advantageous when we are dealing with material that is being constantly updated. 

So what do these products do? They give your library access to thousands of magazines ranging from technical journals to Time . You and your patrons can access this material from a personal computer, either at the library or at home. You have access to full text articles from many of the magazines. 

Gifts and Donations

You need to address how you handle gifts and donations. This will vary according to your community and your library. Some gifts and/or donations may have strings attached. You must decide if the costs outweigh the advantages of accepting these gifts and/or donations.

Who selects and what criteria will be used?

You need to decide who is going to select the materials. It may be you or if you have a large enough staff you may want to divide up who selects the items. A children's librarian might be responsible for adding items to the juvenile collection, while the director is responsible for adding material to the adult collections. In this section, you should also address what criteria you will use when selecting materials. Some questions you might ask are: Is it a bestseller or popular author? Did it have a positive review?

Complaints or concerns about the materials

You must address how you will handle complaints about an item, whether it is in the library or not. This is a very important part of your policy and should be dealt with before you receive a complaint. You should have clear guidelines on how to handle this. Some questions to consider: Do you want the person to file a written complaint with the director? What is the process once a complaint has been filed? Can the person speak in front of the library board?

If an item in your library is challenged, please report the incident to the State Library. We keep a challenge list and these statistics are useful and of interest to many people in Montana.

Deselection (or weeding) material

The library must weed the collection for many reasons. We'll look at weeding specifically later in this chapter. This part of the policy should give your criteria for weeding an item, an explanation of why you weed and what is done with the materials after you have removed them from the collection.

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
  7. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

ASPeN: The New Library Directory

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