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 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.

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.

The Adult Collection Development Committee selects all adult materials.

The McClung Collection Manager selects all materials for McClung.

The Children's and Teen Collection Development Committee selects all children's and teen materials.

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

  • 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 or illustrator
  • Professional reviews
  • 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
  • Contribution to the formal and informal goals of education
  • Acceptable literary and artistic quality

Materials may be judged unacceptable for certain general or specific deficiencies:

  • Lack of lasting quality in subject, format or style
  • Lack of sufficient usefulness or appeal
  • Presentation of obsolete or inaccurate information
  • Inadequacy in comparison with other similar materials already in the collection

Use of the Library's Collection

The Library recognizes that some materials 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 Title form, available on the Library's website or at any public desk. 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.

Local Authors

Every attempt is made to acquire titles by local authors and of regional interest that are produced by mainstream publishers and that are reviewed favorably in library reviewing sources. On occasion, the Library will consider self-published works that have local interest and subjects or that contain unique content. Whether the Library is asked to purchase a title, or it is donated, the same selection criteria that is used for any purchase or gift applies. These criteria are outlined in the Library's Materials Selection Policy. The decision to add a title to the Library's collection is made by the appropriate Collection Development Committee.

Self-Published and Unsolicited Material

The Library receives numerous requests from authors to add their self-published books or books they have published at their own expense. In order to maintain the integrity of the collection, the Library uses the same selection criteria for self-published and unsolicited materials that is used for any purchase or gift, including but not limited to:

  • positive reviews in professional review sources
  • physical suitability and format for library use
  • quality content and presentation
  • relevance to the needs and wants of the community

The Library's selection criteria are outlined in the Library's Material Selection Policy.

To be considered for inclusion in our collection, authors and/or donors must complete a Material Submission Request form and submit it with a copy of the item. Works may be submitted in person at any Knox County Public Library location or submitted by mail. A confirmation of receipt will be sent. The Library does not consider works submitted in electronic format.

Works for consideration will be reviewed by the appropriate Collection Development selection committee. The evaluation process may take up to six weeks. A letter of decision will be sent by mail or email. Due to limited staff time, Library staff cannot discuss or critique individual items with authors.

If a work is chosen for inclusion in the library's collection, the library staff is under no obligation to purchase additional copies for the collection. If the library staff chooses to buy additional copies, they may not be directly purchased from the author, but from an intermediary source.

If a submitted work is declined for addition, the item will be held for 30 days for pickup. After that time, the book will be given to the Friends of the Library for their book sales. Unsolicited items received in the mail will not be returned.


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 and in excellent condition. 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.