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Materials Selection Policies: Eight Elements

Every public library should have a written materials selection policy (or collection development policy) adopted formally by the library's governing board. With the assistance of the library director, the library board is responsible for seeing that a materials selection policy is written, adopted, and updated as necessary. As with all of the library's policies, the selection policy should be readily available for review by the public.

A selection policy has many purposes, including setting the scope of the library's collection. The selection policy defines parameters for adding materials to the public library's collection and also provides criteria for determining when materials will be weeded from the collection. The selection policy can be used in determining annual budget allocations. Also, the selection policy can be used as a tool to combat censorship attempts. In the next issue of Access, "Trustee Corner" will address use of the selection policy against censorship challenges to library materials.

A good source for sample materials selection policies and for detailed information on selection issues is MLA's Before and After the Censor: A Resource Manual on Intellectual Freedom (1987). According to that publication, a well-written materials selection policy contains eight elements:

  1. Statement of purpose of the materials selection policy
    -why does the public library have a materials selection policy?
  2. Responsibility for selection
    -which staff members select library materials?
  3. Budget allocation
    -how will funds be allocated for collection development?
  4. Criteria for selection
    -what are the broad requirements for including materials in the library's collection?
  5. Description of the selection process
    -how are materials selected?
  6. Gift items
    -what are the criteria for adding gift items to the collection?
    -how will gifts be handled?
  7. Weeding/book withdrawal/"deselection"
    -what are the criteria for removing materials from the collection?
  8. Steps for handling objections to materials
    -if an item is challenged, how will the library respond?

Copies of ALA's "Library Bill of Rights" and your library's own form for "Reconsideration of Library Materials" should also be attached to the materials selection policy.

Ellen Richardson, Library Law Specialist
Library of Michigan
March 1994


Updated 04/27/2006