Collection Management Policy overview and FAQ
Why does the Library have a Collection Management Policy and what does it do?
Public libraries in the United States have the following responsibilities:
- Library staff have the duty to protect the public’s First Amendment rights from being infringed upon by government influence.
- Fulfilling this responsibility requires neutral, trained library professionals managing the acquisitions process in a fair and unbiased way.
- Library staff recognize and communicate to the public that a balanced collection will have materials some will deem offensive or unacceptable. Constitutionally protected speech must remain available per the First Amendment, allowing people the freedom to choose for themselves. The Board of Trustees works with library staff to develop a Collection Management policy that is fair and neutral.
What does it mean to be a professional librarian? How are librarians “qualified” and trained to be selectors for the library?
Professional librarians have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. While obtaining their degree, they take a semester-long course, and sometimes several subject matter courses, on collection management.
These classes cover organizational models for managing collections; planning, policy and budgeting; developing collections – including how to fairly and neutrally select materials; managing collections; marketing and outreach; collection analysis including evaluation and assessment; and cooperative collection development and resource sharing among libraries.
As per our policy: “Members of the staff, qualified by reason of education and/or experience, serve on the Collection Management Team and are assigned to assist with the selection of materials.”
Are librarians pushing an agenda? When is it selection and when is it censorship?
Librarians are held to a professional standard that a private citizen would not be. Librarians uphold and defend the public’s freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Librarians are trained to identify and overcome their own personal biases when selecting materials. When selecting items for a diverse community, inevitably something will be purchased that offends a library patron. Librarians work hard to understand the community and add more titles and viewpoints into the collection. Removing, labeling, or restricting access to books and other materials is censorship and a violation of your First Amendment rights.
How do library staff choose what to add to the collections?
The library has a number of selectors on the staff, each responsible for a different level of collection development:
- The supervisor of the ImagineIF Kalispell Collection Services department has the system-wide responsibility for the overall selection and maintenance of all materials and formats within the collection of the library, with additional professional staff selecting for certain collection areas. This responsibility is monitored by the Library Director and Assistant Director, and is delegated to these individuals as a result of their education, training, experience, and job classification.
- All materials and formats are selected or approved for the library’s collection by the Collection Services department supervisor or by professional librarians who are qualified to do so by reason of education, training, experience, knowledge of subject area, and job classification.
- Approved materials may be also selected for the various collections within each ImagineIF branch library by the branch library manager staff who are qualified to do so by reason of education, training, experience, or job classification.
The library uses industry-specific wholesale vendors to supply the books, DVDs and audiobooks for the collections. Library staff also use a variety of tools, metrics and collection statistics to predict popularity and demand for certain titles, as well as professional reviews.
Library staff strive to provide a broad selection of materials to satisfy the diverse needs of the community, and use the following selection criteria to guide their decisions.
- Customer demand and interest
- Critical reviews
- Presentation and readability
- To balance of all sides of an issue
- Author’s reputation and significance as a writer
- Reputation and standing of the publisher
- Local or national significance
- Availability of the material or information elsewhere
- Quality of the physical format
- Reasonable cost
How does the public help the library choose what to buy for the collections?
Patrons can help guide collection decisions by:
- Actively engaging with staff and materials with regard to interests and needs
- Requesting materials to be added to the collection
- Requesting, understanding and using the materials reconsideration process when needed.
- Communicating with the Library Board and Commissioners to help stakeholders understand concerns and desires regarding library services.
How do library staff use patron input to develop collections?
Besides analyzing collection statistics and monitoring patron requests, staff connect with patrons and create collections that serve the whole community by:
- Engaging in open, continuous two-way communication with library patrons and recognizing that individuals have different ways of expressing their needs based on age, language, economic status, culture, or other characteristics
- Interacting with patrons with understanding, respect, and responsiveness
- Handling all requests equitably
- Working in partnership with one another to understand and respond to community needs
- Understanding and responding to rapidly changing demographics, as well as societal and technological changes
- Recognizing that materials of varying complexities and formats are necessary to satisfy diverse needs of library users
- Balancing individual needs and broader community needs in determining the best allocation of collection budget for acquiring or providing access to materials and information
- Reviewing the collection on a regular basis to identify areas of community interest that may need to be strengthened
What about children’s access? How do you help parents protect children from inappropriate materials?
As a public government entity, the library must treat everyone equally and cannot discriminate based on origin, age, background or views. Parents have the right to choose for their own children what materials can be accessed. We provide the following support to parents to help them guide their children’s library use:
This material was partially adapted from the American Library Association Selection Policy Toolkit