A balanced reference collection includes a broad selection of up-to-date and historical sources representing the body of published knowledge. Materials are chosen by reading reviews, previewing, or through recommendations from other staff or customers. Because materials are available in many formats (print, microfiche/microfilm, and online), staff must choose the best format for the intended use while considering costs. In most cases the Library does not purchase the same reference material in more than one format.
Print materials collected by the Library come mainly in four formats: books, periodicals, pamphlets, and maps.
Books: Reference books are selected using the general materials selection policy, with emphasis given to quality of indexing, timeliness, and accuracy of information.
Periodicals: Periodicals are selected using the general materials selection policy, with emphasis given to the quality of the item determined by reviews and examination of the publication, availability of indexing, and customer demand.
Pamphlets: Pamphlets are selected on the basis of timeliness, content, and cost. Sources of pamphlets include national and local organizations and associations, businesses, and government agencies.
Maps: Maps, including free road maps, are acquired from several sources. Many maps are added as a part of the Federal Depository Library Program. Others are purchased as needed to fill gaps in the collection.
Microfiche/Microfilm materials often supplement, augment, or replace print sources. Effective use of space is often a primary consideration in the selection process for this format. Other considerations involve ease and frequency of use, photocopying, and cost.
The Library selects both free and fee-based online resources. Content, quality, ease of use, and cost (if any) are considered in selection. Staff select online services by previewing and locating evaluations whenever possible. In many cases, online services may allow the Library to discontinue purchase of the equivalent paper source.
Free Internet sites can provide information on nearly any subject. The Library provides access to the Internet, but advises careful judgment as to the accuracy of any information found on the Internet. The Library will catalog Web sites that have been evaluated and approved by the Reference Services Manager.
As a member of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the Library works to provide access to government information for all citizens. Materials are selected and maintained according to procedures established by law, the FDLP, and reference selection policies. Materials are integrated into the general collection. While most books are considered reference material and do not circulate, some books are added to the circulating collection, and pamphlets (which are placed in the vertical file) may circulate. The Library cooperates with the Regional Depository Library in Memphis and other depository libraries, especially the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to provide access to documents not available at a particular depository.
Librarians will extend computer time to allow all patrons, including those from out-of-county, to complete use of any online federal document available through the Federal Documents Library Program.
The Library also collects publications from state agencies. These are often the only sources for statistical and historical information on the State, County, and City level. In conjunction with the McClung Historical Collection, the Reference Department works to maintain a comprehensive collection of documents published by Knox County, City of Knoxville, and Town of Farragut governments.