General materials selection

“Selection” refers to the decision that must be made either to add a specific item or types of material to the collection or to retain material already in the collection. It is a means of collection development to meet user needs and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of the individual selector.

The words “book,” “library materials,” and other synonyms as they may appear in this policy have the widest possible meaning; all forms of recorded communication, from the traditional printed forms to the latest development in nonprint media, are therefore included in this definition.

The word “collection” refers to a group of books or other library material having a common characteristic or located in one place.

Purpose of the Selection Policy

The purpose of this policy is to guide librarians in the selection of materials of contemporary significance and of permanent value and to inform the public about the principles upon which selections are made. Its primary objective is to ensure that public moneys are spent wisely so that the Library can provide the community with relevant materials in sufficient supply to make the Library a dependable resource for most people most of the time.

Responsibility for Selection of Library Materials

Ultimate responsibility for selection of materials rests with the Library Director, who operates within the framework of policies, goals, and objectives. The Director will delegate to appropriate staff members authority to interpret and apply the policy in daily operations. It is the responsibility of each employee to record and communicate user requests and needs so that they may be considered in selection.

The Adult Selection Committee selects all adult circulating books and all reference books. The Sights & Sounds Manager selects all other adult audiovisual materials, and the Reference Services Manager selects all adult reference materials.

The McClung Collection Manager selects all materials for McClung.

The Children’s Collection Development Committee selects all children’s materials, and a Teen Selection Committee selects all material for teens.

Centralized Selection Committees provide for a range of materials with differing viewpoints and reading levels while streamlining technical services processes to ensure that all points of service receive new materials at the same time. Centralized Selection Committees take a system- wide approach to limit duplication of materials, evaluate collections, and create collections which are more responsive to customer needs.

Organization of the Library as a Factor in Selection

The Library is composed of agencies and collections that are designed to make its total resources readily available and widely accessible to the community it serves. These agencies presently include:

  • Lawson McGhee Library with its departmental and special collections, extensive reference sources, and comprehensive circulating collection;
  • The East Tennessee History Center with its regional and local collection for historical and genealogical research;
  • Neighborhood branch libraries that have collections of general reading and reference materials planned to meet the particular needs of their communities.

Because the needs of the users of the individual units vary, so must the collection chosen for them. It is in this respect that the organization of the library affects the selection of materials.

Guidelines for Selection

The Library’s collections for children will emphasize the development of reading and learning skills and reading for enjoyment by means of recreational literature and media. They also will emphasize the stimulation of a lifetime interest in continuous learning by means of accurate and interesting factual materials.

The Library’s collections for adults will emphasize their need to be accurately informed in order to make personal choices, to take responsible positions on current issues, and to keep up with changing developments in their vocational or avocational pursuits. Recognizing the different levels of interest and expertise based on age, experience, and educational or professional attainment, the library will select a wide range of materials in whatever media will best assist an individual or group to know and understand themselves and the world in which they live.

The Library’s teen collection is intended to be for young people ages 13-18. Its focus is on the recreational preferences and informational interests appropriate to teens. Fiction selected has believable characters, dialogue, and plot. The majority of nonfiction available for this age is located in the general adult collection. Nonfiction selected especially for teens has readable text and appealing format in addition to accuracy of content.

All or some of the following general criteria will be considered when making selection decisions:

  • Insight into human and social conditions
  • Suitability of subject, style, and format for intended audience. (The Library does not purchase textbooks or other curriculum-related materials unless they provide the best or only coverage available in a subject area. In most cases, abridgements lose literary quality and reader interest, and therefore are seldom added.)
  • Relevance to present and potential informational, educational, and leisure-time needs
  • Importance as a document of the times
  • Reputation and/or significance of author
  • Attention of critics and reviewers
  • Relation to existing collections and other materials on the subject
  • Availability of material elsewhere in the community
  • Volume and nature of requests by the public

Use of the Library’s Collection

The Library recognizes that many books are controversial and that any given item may offend some patrons. Selections will not be made on the basis of any assumed approval or disapproval, but solely on the merit of the work as it relates to the Library’s objectives and serves the expressed or anticipated needs and interests of the community.

The use of rare and scholarly items of great value will be controlled to the extent required to preserve them from harm.

Responsibility for the reading of minors rests with their parents and legal guardians. Selection of adult materials will not be limited by the possibility that books may come into the possession of minors.

Patrons not finding desired material in the Library’s collection may request that it be borrowed on interlibrary loan or that it be purchased by using the Suggest a purchase form, available on the Library’s website. Patrons finding certain library material objectionable to the community at large may request that it be reconsidered by using the Request for Reconsideration of Library Material form. Both forms should be available at all Library locations.


The Library welcomes donations of needed material or funds for the purchase of such material. The Library reserves the right to evaluate and dispose of donations in accordance with the criteria applied to purchased material. The Library discourages the attachment of conditions to donations, and no conditions may be imposed relating to any donation after its acceptance by the Library. Donations which do not comply with the Library’s objectives and policies will be declined and, when possible, referred to a more appropriate recipient.

Books and other items donated by the public are added to the library collection if suitable. Donated items not needed for the library collection are given to the Friends of the Library for use in the annual book sale if they are suitable.

Collection Development and Maintenance

The Library will evaluate its collection on a continuing basis in response to the changing nature and needs of our community. The criteria used in the selection of material will be used in its withdrawal.

In order to maintain the collection in its most useful and attractive condition, professional staff will consider for withdrawal material that is no longer in demand, that has been superseded by newer or more accurate resources, or that is in poor physical condition. When appropriate, deteriorating items will be repaired or rebound. Replacement of a withdrawn item is not automatic; the decision to replace will be based on the selection policy.

Books and other materials no longer needed at a branch library are sent to the downtown location. These withdrawn items, along with withdrawn items from the main library, are reviewed for possible use at another location in the library system. Items not needed elsewhere are given to the Friends of the Library for use in the annual book sale if they are suitable.

Review and Revision of Selection Policy

Library staff regularly reviews the Materials Selection Policy to ensure that it meets community needs.