12.1 Purpose

The purpose of the South Portland Public Library materials selection policy is to guide librarians and to inform the public about the professional standards and principles upon which librarians base their selection decisions.

A policy cannot replace the judgment of librarians, but stating goals and indicating boundaries will assist them in choosing from the vast array of materials available.

12.2 Scope of the Collection

South Portland Public Library’s collections are intended to meet the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs of its citizens. The scope of the collection is to be sufficiently broad to offer a choice of format, treatment, and level of difficulty so that the library- needs of most individuals can be met and individuals of all ages can be served. The collection is not archival; it is reviewed and revised on an ongoing basis to meet contemporary needs. The library shall always be guided by a sense of responsibility to the past, present, and future.

12.3 Selection Objectives

The primary objective of selection shall be to collect materials of contemporary significance and of lasting value. To this end, librarians shall add materials that enrich the collections and maintain an overall balance. Further, the library shall make available materials for enlightenment and recreation. The library also shall provide a representative sampling of experimental and ephemeral materials, even though such materials may not have enduring interest and value.

12.4 Selection Principles

Library materials shall be selected for values of interest, information and enlightenment of all the people of the community. The library will include material without regard to the race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, or the political or religious views of the writer. The library shall provide the fullest practicable range of material presenting a wide variety of views concerning the problems and issues of our time. Materials of sound, factual authority should not be proscribed or removed from library shelves because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

The selection of any material for the library’s collections does not constitute an endorsement of its contents. The library recognizes that many materials are controversial, and that any given item may offend some patrons. Selection decisions are not made on the basis of any anticipated approval or disapproval, but solely on the merits of the work in relation to the collection and the needs and interests of the community.

The responsibility for children’s use of the library materials rests with their parents or legal guardians. The selection of materials intended for use by adults shall not be inhibited by the possibility that they may be accessible to use by children.

12.5 Criteria for Selection

Librarians must consider each type of material for its excellence and the audience for which it is intended. No single standard can apply to all acquisition decisions. Librarians may select some material primarily for its artistic merit, scholarship or its value as a human document, while they choose others to satisfy the recreational and entertainment needs of the community.

A small percentage of library materials are subject to widespread and/or heavy local demand. These high-demand items may or may not meet the general or specific criteria contained in this policy. In either case, librarians give serious consideration to the volume and nature of requests by members of the public. In addition, as the social and intellectual climate of the community changes, materials which librarians originally did not recommend for purchase, may become of interest. Such materials will be re-evaluated as the need arises.

To build a collection of merit and significance, librarians acquire materials according to objective guidelines. They evaluate all acquisitions, whether considered for purchase or donated to the library, by examining reviews in one or more of the professional library review media and checking against the standards listed below.

12.7 General Criteria

  • Overall purpose
  • Contemporary or permanent value/interest/demand/appeal
  • Authority, skill, competence, reputation, and significance of the author
  • Reputation and standards of the publisher
  • Clarity, accuracy, objectivity, and readability
  • Social significance
  • Comprehensiveness and depth of treatment
  • Appropriateness and effectiveness of the medium to the content
  • Quality and suitability of the physical format to the library collection
  • Attention of critics and reviewers
  • Importance of the subject matter to the collection
  • Scarcity of material on the subject
  • Price, budgetary, and space limitations
  • Availability of material elsewhere in the region or through interlibrary loan
  • Potential use
  • Need for duplicate materials in the existing collection
  • Currency
  • Presentation of opposing points of view to allow for balance

12.8 Specific Criteria for the Evaluation of Works of Information and Opinion

  • Authority
  • Comprehensiveness and depth of treatment
  • Objectivity
  • Clarity, accuracy and logic of presentation Diversity of viewpoint/expression

12.9 Specific Criteria for the Evaluation of Works of Imagination

  • Representation of important movement, genre, trends, or national culture
  • Literary merit
  • Vitality and originality
  • Artistic presentation and experimentation
  • Sustained interest
  • Effective characterization
  • Reflection of the human experience

12.11 Responsibility for Materials Selection

The responsibility for assisting in the selection of library materials belongs to members of the staff. The ultimate responsibility for materials selection rests with the Director who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Advisory Board.

All staff members who select materials are expected to adhere to the selection objectives and principals expressed in this policy and to apply their knowledge and expertise in making selection decisions.

The following personnel are responsible for the acquisition choices that meet the library’s selection criteria:

  • Adult Collection: Library Director, Head of Circulation Services, full-time Circulation Department Library Assistants, Head of Technical Services
  • Children’s Collection: Head of Children’s Services and Children’s Services Library Assistant
  • Young Adult Collection: Young Adult Services Librarian
  • Branch Collection: Branch Manager and Branch Library Assistant(s)

12.12 Selection Methods

Librarians select most materials on the basis of reviews published in sources recognized as reliable and authoritative. These include professional review journals as well as review sources aimed at the general public and on-line sources.

Librarians also consult standard bibliographies such as Public Library Catalog, Children’s Catalog, Junior High School Catalog, and Senior High School Catalog and lists of best books published in the library review media, especially for retrospective materials to fill a gap in the collection.

The number of items librarians can select is only a small fraction of the number produced each year. Librarians make all selections with professional judgment adhering to selection criteria.

12.14 Weeding Policies and Procedures

Weeding is the practice of systematically examining and evaluating materials already in the library’s collection. In weeding, the selection staff determines whether an individual item should be retained or withdrawn. If the item is withdrawn, the librarian decides if it should be replaced with a new copy, or with a new title. The librarian may consult a standard bibliography to make this decision.

Librarians withdraw materials for a variety of reasons: perhaps because the information is outdated, the library owns more copies than currently needed, the material is rarely used, or the physical condition of the material is poor. Discarded items may be given to the South Portland Friends of the Library for their annual book sale.

12.15 Gifts

The South Portland Public Library accepts gifts of materials with the understanding that the same guidelines of selection that apply to materials acquired by purchase also apply to gifts. The library reserves the right to evaluate and to dispose of gifts in accordance with the criteria applied to purchased materials and, in addition, the library reserves the right to sell or otherwise dispose of materials not added to the collection.

The library staff may issue to the donor a written statement that indicates the number of items received and the date, but it is the donor’s responsibility to indicate to IRS the value of the items given. Pursuant to Section 155a of the Tax Reform Act of 1984 and IRS regulations, the library staff will not appraise or indicate a value for the gift. (Section 10.2)

12.16 Requests for Purchase

Comments, requests, and questions from patrons about the collection provide librarians with useful information about local interests or needs. Librarians evaluate requests for specific items in accordance with selection principles, objectives and criteria set forth in this document.

While the library encourages acquisition suggestions from patrons, the professional staff decides material purchases through committee selection in the Adult Collection.

12.17 Requests for Reconsideration of Library Materials

A singular obligation of the public library is to reflect differing points of view on controversial or debatable subjects within its collections. The South Portland Public Library does not promulgate particular beliefs or views, nor does the selection of an item express or imply endorsement of the viewpoint of the author. Library materials shall not be marked or labeled to indicate approval or disapproval of the contents, nor will items be sequestered, except for the purpose of protecting them from damage or theft.

South Portland Public Library welcomes the expression of opinion by patrons and community members, but will be governed by this materials selection policy in making additions to, or deletions from, its collections. A patron who requests the reconsideration of library materials will be asked to put the petition in writing. Staff will provide a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form that the patron will be encouraged to complete and sign. (See Appendix)

Upon receipt of this written request, the Library Director will appoint an ad hoc committee from professional staff including, but not limited to, the selector for the subject area of the item in question and the appropriate department head. The committee will make a written recommendation to the Library Director, who will then decide the disposition of the material. The Library Director will respond in writing to the person who initiated the request for reconsideration within ten days. If the Director’s response is unsatisfactory to the complainant, an appeal may be lodged with the Library Advisory Board at their next regularly scheduled meeting. The Library Director will inform the Library Advisory Board of all requests for reconsideration of library materials, and their disposition.