The second major section of the policy has those practical elements regarding who does what in order to manage the information resources and to some extent, how do they do it. The elements of this section are the following:
This part of the policy addresses the core collection management issues and is the section most often referred to once the policy is written. The majority of these policy pieces can be drafted by you or another member of the staff but the Board or other authority must become informed and involved with the policy statements and implications for: A. General Statement about the collections; B. Responsibility; E. Gifts; F. Weeding; and, H. Intellectual Freedom and Censorship. These elements are central to the library and its ability to meet the information and recreational reading, listening and viewing preferences of the diverse members of your community. If those in authority above you do not explore the implications and air their differences of opinion on these issues prior to reaching consensus on the policy for the library, if and when a problem arises they will be unable to articulate and defend the library’s policy and will are likely to fail to stand behind you and the library when there is controversy. The library literature has often said that “the collection development policy should be a well thought out document” but it perhaps fairer to say that it “should be a well fought out policy” with differences aired and discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Ultimately, the board and most governing bodies will make their decisions based upon majority opinion or votes but the minority views must be heard as well.
All of the topics above are further elaborated below with examples and practical advice about the policy content.
- General nature of the collections
This is where a library is likely to express its priorities for various aspects of the collection and to describe the ideal information resource situation for the library.
One might choose to quote part of the mission of the library or at least indicate that the information resources are directly based upon the mission of the library and are a main part of the way in which the library fulfills that mission. Although this piece of the policy is situated in this policy outline as part of the second main section of the policy some libraries may chose to place it earlier in the policy. The following examples provide some indication of how whole collections can be characterized. The first example is from the Spokane County Library District:
Library materials in a variety of formats, including licensed electronic resources, shall be selected and retained on the basis of their value for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all the people of the community in conformance with the District’s mission and strategic plan.
And this from the Minneapolis Public Library’s policy:
A library is identified and defined principally by its holdings of materials and information resources. The library acts to fulfill its mission by selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, maintaining, and providing access to a collection of materials (both print and nonprint) and electronic resources that address the interests and needs of the members of a diverse and complex community.
The final example here is not from an existing policy but might serve as an appropriate model for some libraries.
The library strives to provide a current collection of resources to assist the members of the community in finding the information that is vital for their lives as well as helping them to identify appropriate materials to support their recreational interests. In both instances, a wide variety of formats (print, audiovisual, and electronic) are employed to appeal to members of the community regardless of their learning preferences and styles. The District is not a library of historic record. To ensure a vital collection of continuing and relevant value to our citizens, except in the area of local history, materials and/or formats are not maintained once their lack of popularity or irrelevance renders them superfluous.
Often libraries indicate here what formats the library includes or excludes from the collections. For example, a policy might say:
The library prefers motion pictures on DVDs and no longer purchases or adds titles on VHS cassettes or in other older motion picture formats.
This type of statement makes it clear that, while you may not be throwing out the existing video cassettes, you will not add gifts or purchased videos. This is important because libraries do have to make decisions on a regular basis about which format collections are becoming obsolete. This is not to say that no one in your community has a cassette player. But the library is not in a position to support all formats on an ongoing basis. Stopping the addition of materials to a format collection is the first step in diminishing and eventually retiring that format entirely. This situation occurs regularly (maybe you are old enough to remember LP records, 8-track tapes, 16 mm films, and even film loops!) and at some point the library, like individuals, has to make decisions that lead to the adoption of the newer technology. It happens all of the time and is likely to continue to happen.
In summary, this element of the policy is not always located at this point in the outline but somewhere in the policy, here or in the introductory material, the library will want to stress the multi format nature of its collections, as well as its emphasis upon currency.
In many states, the statutes make it clear that the Board or other authority is ultimately responsible for information resources for the library but it is the generally accepted practice that even in such circumstances the Board delegates that responsibility to the library director and/or his or her delegates. If there is more than one staff member at your library, you must decide how to distribute the collection development responsibilities. In a large library, one person is often responsible for the coordination of selection and the other activities that constitute collection management while many individuals are involved as subject or format selectors and de-selectors. It is best to have collection development, including selection, as a shared responsibility to avoid biases and allow discussion, but this may not always be possible. When it truly is a one-person library, the librarian must be even more vigilant in avoiding bias. By consciously putting the interests and values of the community members ahead of one’s own personal beliefs and preferences it is possible to select for the library with limited personal bias. In any size library, use patterns (circulation statistics in general as well as by subject and format), short comment cards, Web surveys, and other easy feedback mechanisms can provide even the one-person library with directional clues regarding the choices for the collections. The demand for high-profile, best selling authors and popular subjects often leave little funding for the librarian’s discretionary spending. The first policy example below is one of the very best concise policy statements found on the Web.
For example, the Spokane County Library District policy says:
Selection is vested in the District’s director, and under his or her direction, in members of the staff who are qualified by reason of education and training. Library materials selected in accordance with this policy shall be held to be selected by the Board.
Another example is taken from Santa Clara (California) County Library:
1.The initial responsibility for materials selection lies with the professional staffs at the libraries operating within the areas of service to children, young adults, and adults. All staff members and the general public may recommend material for consideration.
2.The ultimate responsibility for selection rests by law with the County Librarian.
And one final example comes from the Rapid City (SD) Public Library:
The Board of Trustees has delegated to the Library Director the authority and responsibility for selection of all print and non-print materials. Responsibilities for actual selection rests with appropriately trained personnel who discharge this obligation consistent with Board’s adopted selection criteria.
In some libraries, a Collection Development Committee is appointed from amongst the staff to arbitrate uncertain selection decisions, to review things like periodical renewals or the addition of new subscriptions or electronic resources, to handle policy revisions, and to design, manage, and report upon collection related projects. The Memorial Hall Library provides a table of selection responsibilities that changes as staffing and/or selection responsibilities are changed or rotated.
- Funding Considerations
A statement about funding considerations is only necessary if there are special funds earmarked for particular types of purchases or resources or if some collections are actually funded from a source outside of the library. Two obvious instances of these situations are:
- An endowment that was established to fund a defined type, format, or subject collection. The interest from the fund can only be used to purchase children’s picture books, for example, and further the donor stipulated that the library was not to diminish its usual support for this area of the collection. Thus there may be a remarkably large amount of money annually to renew and vitalize that collection while other collections are in a worn and tattered state. Putting this special funding information in the policy helps staff, the board members and others to understand why the collection seems unbalanced.
- The Friends of the Library has made a commitment to provide the funding for the audio book collection. The library does not budget for this collection from its regular tax dollars. When the Friends’ funding raiser is a big success and lots of new audio books are purchased, there will be praise from those who use them and criticism from those who think you should be using more money to buy computers, or whatever. In a really bad year for Friends’ fundraising, I am disgruntled because I want more new audio books!
- It is in these circumstances or similar ones that one ought to mention any special funding that influences the ability of the library to always balance its efforts according to current community needs. The solution is to not accept endowment money with “strings” attached or to rely solely on an outside source to fund an essential part of the collection (even when at one time it might have been considered a bit of “frill” for the library).
Collection development policies typically include a description of the criteria used to make selection decisions within specific subject areas, including the preferred formats. An example of a fairly elaborate “Principles of Selection” can be seen at Santa Clara County Library. For another approach, you could follow Washoe County Library’s example quoted below from their 2004 revised policy:
Selection is a discerning and interpretive process, involving a general knowledge of the subject and recognition of the needs of the community. Material is judged on the basis of the content and style of the work as a whole, not by selected portions or passages. The library strives to collect and make available differing points of view. Among standard criteria applied are: literary merit, enduring value, accuracy, authoritativeness, social significance, importance of the subject matter to the collection, cost, scarcity of material on the subject and availability elsewhere. Quality and suitability of the format are also considered. Specific considerations for each area of the collection are noted in the Collection Development Plan. At all times selectors should select material that will build a well-rounded collection, which includes varying viewpoints and opinions that will meet supplementary study needs.
The Boulder (CO) Public Library has general selection criteria that are introduced by a liberal statement about “flexibility, open-mindedness, and responsiveness to the changing needs of the citizens” and followed by a list of 18 general criteria. Following that are specific criteria not for formats but for defined collections such as reference, electronic resources, periodicals, adult, children’s, etc. This is an interesting policy that is more elaborate than most regarding what is called selection criteria but which is not significantly different than those libraries who describe the character of these same collections but without calling those characteristics the criteria. This works well for the Boulder policy and provides another way in which a library has taken the usual items for inclusion in a collection development policy and arranged them in a way that makes sense in the context of their library.
At one time it was considered important to identify your selection criteria for books, media, periodicals, electronic resources, and Internet resources individually. However, libraries are increasingly listing more generic criteria that can be applied across most formats and types of sources. The special considerations for most format specific criteria are left to the library staff to understand and interpret rather than requiring listings of criteria by format. You might consider including statements about how you select for different age-levels, such as adult, youth, and children, but it is probably sufficient for you or the person doing the selection and collection management for a given segment to understand those principles without including them in the policy.
Some generic criteria that are commonly seen in collection development policies are listed in the Selection Philosophy and Principles section of this website. You may find some of those criteria are what you wish to include in your policy statement.
Gifts logically follow selection in the policy because gifts involve a selection process and should be thought of in much the same terms as purchased items. Too many libraries consider gifts something that are “free” rather than considering the tremendous cost of handling, sorting, disposing of, and acknowledging the boxes and boxes of gifts that come to public libraries. The cost is not just the staff time but also the very low return on investment realized with the typical gift of materials. The library’s policy can be anything from accepting everything that is brought in or offered (a bad idea) to accepting only unencumbered cash. The Gifts section of the website provides amble justification for taking a very professional stance towards gifts. Consult those discussions if you need to be better informed about gifts before writing your policy.
The policy should include the word “useable” or the phrase “in useable condition” when describing gifts of materials. This eliminates those things brought to the library that smell, are too old, are infested, or just are plain dirty. They can and should be rejected on the spot. It still means that gifts such as these will be left anonymously at your door and the staff will have to dispose of them rather than bringing them into the library.
The gift policy should specify what types of materials the library does not accept. Typical types of gift exclusions are listed below for your consideration.< >Textbooks, at any level, more than five years old -- or
Textbooks at any level and of any vintage
Encyclopedia sets more than five years old
Videos or audio tapes that are not original commercial products
Video cassettes (Staff time is needed to be sure they are what they say they are rather than home movies, pornography, etc. Even if they are going in the book sale this is an increasingly necessary step.)
National Geographic magazines
Children’s trade paperbacks
A statement saying something similar to “the library only accepts materials in useable condition.”
A statement explaining that “all gifts become the property of the library and may be disposed of or used at the discretion of the library.” You may wish to list the possible uses of materials not placed in the library collection (i.e., book sale, other libraries, or recycled).
Provide a list of types of items not accepted by the library for consideration.
Gift materials to be added to the collection must meet the same criteria as those items purchased for the collection.
Gifts may be acknowledged with a receipt (at the desk at the time of donation) or through a letter if the gift is substantial.
The library complies with all IRS regulations pertaining to charitable donations and cannot put a value on donated items but can acknowledge the number and type of material donated. It is the responsibility of the donor to ascertain an appropriate amount to use for an income tax deduction.
Memorial Hall Library, have a policy that all gifts are given to the Friends of the Library. This has the advantage of making it clearer that gifts are likely to be sold rather than added to the collections. It is worth considering the pros and cons of this idea if you have a Friends group capable of handling on-going donations.
- Weeding or De-selection
It is a good idea to include your weeding guidelines and criteria in the collection development policy. This protects your library from some the questions that the community may have as you discard or remove books from the shelves. Your weeding policy can be a fairly simple statement, such as the following:
As materials become worn, dated, damaged or lost, replacement will be determined by the appropriate staff members, who will determine whether or not:
A. The item is still available and can and should be replaced because of demand or need;
B. Another item or format might better serve the same purpose;
C. Updated, newer or revised materials would better replace a given item;
E. The item has historical value in this or another library based upon mission and guidelines;
F. Another networking agency could better provide the item or a comparable item if needed it the future.
You can also see other examples of weeding criteria in the collection development policies of other libraries on the web and those cited in the section specifically on Weeding. There is a trend to call weeding or de-selection “assessment” although that term is usually reserved for a different library process used to describe collections while ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses.
Although public libraries seldom have truly rare books that require a specially controlled environment to preserve their fragile paper and binding, we do sometimes have materials that we wish to keep in usable condition for as long as possible. There are other materials which we need to repair in order to continue to use them. Preservation or conservation concerns itself with these issues. In a policy statement a library may wish to make it clear that it does not replace every worn item in the collection with another copy of the same thing or that the library does not generally rebind books when their bindings become too worn to use. It is a local decision to determine how much to address the issue of preservation within the policy. More details regarding preservation and conservation in the digital age are located in the section of this website entitled Preservation.
- Intellectual Freedom and Censorship
Collection development policies should always include a section outlining how library staff should handle patron requests for reconsidering of library materials (often called “challenges”). Being prepared is critical and having a clearly written policy before facing a challenge ensures that the situation will be handled properly. A statement in the policy endorsing the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights principles as well as a copy of the Library Bill of Rights is standard practice.
Tippecanoe County Public Library and Washoe Public Library have well stated procedures in their collection development policies for handling requests for reconsideration of library materials.
An excerpt from the Benson Public Library’s collection development policy states the library’s position on collection of materials that may be considered offensive to library users:
As a tax-supported institution, Benson Public Library is building a collection which includes opposing viewpoints, rather than supporting any one view of a particular topic or issue. Some of the materials may be offensive to individuals or groups because of individual perceptions of profanity, social, economic, and political ideas, religious viewpoints, the background of the author, or the kind of information provided. The library does not approve nor endorse any particular viewpoint or belief represented in its collection. The Library’s role is to provide materials which will allow individuals to freely examine issues and make their own decisions. It is the responsibility of individuals to limit their reading to books and materials which are congruent with their individual tastes. While a person may reject materials for him/herself and his/her children, he/she may not restrict access to the materials by others.
Items cited under the general collection development section and under each particular topic included in this part of your policy may be useful to you. In addition to looking at as many library policies as possible (via the Web), the following publication may provides good examples and guidelines for you. State library websites and the American Library Association website are also good sources of sample policies in part or in whole.
Hoffman, F., & Wood, R. J. (2005). Library collection development policies: Academic, public, and special libraries. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.