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 patrons. Because materials are available in many formats (print, 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 are available in two formats.
- 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.
Microfilmed periodicals and newspapers are purchased to save space when long backfiles of the issues are desired. Other considerations are frequency of use, the presence of color illustrations, and the cost of photocopying.
The Library selects and catalogs online resources. Content, quality, ease of use, frequency of updates, and costs are considered in selection. Online resources are previewed and professional reviews are used whenever possible. In many cases, online services allow the Library to discontinue purchase of equivalent paper sources.
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 pamphlet 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.
Online resources made available through the Federal Depository Library Program are cataloged for easy retrieval. Libraries will extend computer time to allow citizens, including those from out of county, to complete the use of any online federal document available through FDLP.
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.