Booklist Selection Policy

Revised 1999

Booklist operates under policies established by the Publishing Committee of the American Library Association. Its primary purpose is to provide a guide to current library materials in many formats appropriate for use in public libraries and school library media centers. The needs of small and medium-sized libraries receive special consideration in all selection decisions. All materials reviewed in the Adult Books, Books for Youth, and Media sections are recommended for purchase by libraries and media centers. This recommended-only policy, in place since Booklist's founding in 1905, has been adapted over the decades to reflect changes in the philosophy of public library service. Thus, materials are recommended for reasons relating to both quality and demand. That is, books and media found wanting in terms of quality may still be recommended if the reviewer anticipates strong demand from library patrons. All reviews reflect critical evaluation and include comments on weaknesses and limitations as necessary.

Reviewers recommend materials judged to be of interest to libraries representing a great variety of communities, readerships, and resources. Recommendations are made from works written or produced in English and distributed in the U.S. Periodicals, pamphlets, vanity publications, and highly technical, specialized, sectarian, and free materials are outside the scope of the regular reviewing program.

A star indicates a work judged by a reviewer to be outstanding in its genre. Certain nonstarred reviews sometimes appear in the magazine in boxes; this special placement is not necessarily an indicator of quality but rather denotes an item of special interest--details about which are spelled out in the review.

Booklist editors and reviewers participate in evaluation as an open-ended process and follow standard selection criteria consistent with the Library Bill of Rights and its various interpretations as adopted by the Council of the American Library Association. In selecting materials for review, Booklist editors reflect many of the same attitudes as professional librarians selecting materials for purchase. The words of Lester Asheim, in his classic essay " Not Censorship but Selection" ( Wilson Library Bulletin, 1953), remain apt:

"The selector begins, ideally, with a presumption in favor of liberty of thought; the censor does not. The aim of the selector is to promote reading not to inhibit it; to multiply the points of view which will find expression, not limit them; to be a channel for communication, not a bar against it."

The selection policy statements in the following sections on Adult Books, Books for Youth, Media, and Reference Books Bulletin clarify those particular approaches and the types of materials considered.

Adult Books

Recommendations in the Adult Books section of Booklist are based on the premise that any library collection must include both works of current interest and those of lasting value, regardless of their ideological point of view. Works appealing to popular interests or serving recreational functions are recommended in accordance with standards appropriate to the subject matter and to the needs of the intended audience. Books of outstanding literary, aesthetic, or intellectual value are recommended provided they are likely to be used by the general reader.

Realizing that adult library patrons often request materials before or soon after they are published, Adult Books staff strive to review new books as early as possible. Titles judged likely to be in high demand--due to the quality of the book, the status of the author, the popularity of the subject, or any combination of these and other factors--are reviewed well in advance of publication and included in a special section called "Upfront: Advance Reviews."

Current fiction and nonfiction titles are evaluated in galley proofs or folded-and-gathered sheets, or from finished books when no galleys are available. Both hardcover and original paperback materials are considered for review. Revised editions of previously published titles and newly published versions of titles long out of print are usually determined out of scope but may be considered based on individual merit.

In addition to reviews, the Adult Books section includes columns and special features of interest to both readers'-advisory librarians and general readers.

Books for Youth

Children's and YA books considered for review include fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. The decision to review--and, thus, to recommend for library purchase--is based on both literary quality and content suitable to the interests and needs of children and young adults from preschool through high school. In nonfiction, books of borderline quality but considerable usefulness may also be reviewed. Materials are evaluated in galley proofs, folded-and-gathered sheets, paperback, or hardcover. Periodicals, textbooks, workbooks, pamphlets, stapled paperbacks, and books designed for home rather than library use are excluded.

A book's grade-or age-level assignment is decided according to its format, reading level, style, subject interest, and appeal. The books reviewed are separated by general age groups. Books reviewed in the "Older Readers" section are evaluated in terms of their relevance to junior-high and high-school students and recommended for individual recreational reading or curriculum-related use and reference. Reviews in "Middle Readers" evaluate books for grades three to six and in "The Young" for preschool through grade two. Because of the special need and criteria for evaluating easy-reading materials, these books are treated in a separate section. Special professional publications of interest to young-adult and children's librarians and school library media specialists are also covered in a separate section. After evaluation by reviewers, books in ongoing nonfiction series may be recommended without a review in the "Series Roundup," with imprint information and citation to the last full series review given.

All books for youth are evaluated for acceptable literary quality according to standard criteria for different types of writing: for fiction, characterization, point of view, setting, plot, theme, and writing style; for nonfiction, content, organization, balance, format, style; and for picture books, style and quality of the art, relationship of art and text, and suitability of the whole to the intended audience. Nonfiction works that discuss currently controversial elements (e.g., sex, drugs, or the occult) are judged for the integrity of their overall treatment. Nonsensationalized presentations on different sides of controversial subjects are considered for recommendation. Fiction titles for children and young adults that contain potentially controversial elements, including sexual, religious, political, or racial subject matter, or that formulate a worldview or life philosophy of hopelessness, may be recommended for purchase depending on artistic value.

Adult books deemed of interest to teens, either as personal reading or curriculum-related material, are also recommended. Following full-length reviews of the selected titles in the Adult Books and "Upfront" sections of the magazine, Books for Youth staff append a brief statement targeting the YA audience or distinguishing elements of particular YA interest. Appearing with the statement is a symbol denoting primary use or appeal: YA, for those books of general YA interest; YA/C, for books of curriculum use; YA/L, for books of limited audience or for special readers; and YA/M, for books most suitable for mature young adult readers of any age capable of adult judgment and able to respond to the book as a whole rather than reacting to isolated parts or incidental aspects.

The great variety among young library users in city, rural, and suburban areas calls for consideration of a book's appeal to children who are sophisticated or immature, advanced or slow, from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and with disparate interests and lifestyles. Curriculum-related materials, representing a wide range of intellectual and social development and a broad range of student needs and subject areas, include those that deal with current issues and concerns as well as those that treat the traditional categories of literature, history, government, the arts and sciences, etc.

In addition to reviews, the Books for Youth section publishes bibliographies, columns, and special features designed to aid those doing collection-development and readers'-advisory work.


The Media section of Booklist includes reviews of materials for school library media centers and school district collections; for public-library media collections; for use within libraries by children's, adult, and young-adult librarians in program contexts; for public-library circulating media collections; and for civic, community, religious, and special-interest groups and individuals who use the resources of libraries. These reviews serve as a highly selective buying and programming guide for these collections and libraries. Many educational and special-interest videos include public performance rights; others are for home use only. Booklist Media reviews note public performance status when possible, but media librarians should always verify the availability of public performance rights when videos are purchased.

Only those materials released for purchase in the U.S. within the previous six months are considered for review. In addition, programmed instruction and self-tutorial programs are not reviewed.

The Booklist Media staff and contributing reviewers evaluate new video, children's and spoken-word audio, and audiobooks in all subject areas for ages preschool through adult. The editorial staff and contributing reviewers also periodically prepare special lists and features on specific media formats and issues and on topics of current interest ("Voice-over," "Short Takes," "Kid Stuff," etc.).

The Booklist Media editors and reviewers use many of the same selection criteria applied to the evaluation of print materials, such as quality, authenticity, and utility. Media reviewers, however, also evaluate production techniques unique to specific formats and through which the content of a given work is conveyed. Recommendations reflect changing trends in the media field and the concerns and needs of the audiences for which the materials are designed.

Reference Sources

The Reference Books Bulletin section of Booklist reviews reference sources in any format. Reference sources are those designed by their arrangement and treatment to be consulted for specific items of information rather than to be read consecutively. They may include, but are not limited to, almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, indexes, electronic databases (CD-ROM and online), dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, guides, handbooks, and Web sites that would be of interest primarily to public libraries and school media centers. We recognize, however, that RBB reviews are often pertinent to the needs of many academic libraries.

Highly specialized or technical titles, regional titles, annuals, how-to books, and titles more than six months old are generally excluded from consideration for review. Preference is given to new titles (as opposed to revisions, supplements, etc.). Final selection of titles to be evaluated in Reference Books Bulletin rests with the editor.

Reference Books Bulletin includes the following types of evaluation and information: extended reviews that require in-depth examination and documentation; reviews, characterized by brevity and limited documentation, on works for which extended reviews are not considered necessary or feasible; special features, including omnibus reviews that cover reference works of particular types or genres, as well as annotated lists of reference works for particular audiences or on particular topics; and brief notices of works that may be of interest to RBB's audience but do not merit a full review, including books in ongoing series and new editions of works previously reviewed by the Board.

Among the factors considered in reviews are a work's purpose, authority, scope and content, organization, and format. Unlike in the other sections of Booklist, reference titles not recommended for purchase may still be reviewed if the editor feels it is important to place such works in the context of similar sources in the field. Books may be evaluated in galley proofs, although reviews are not published until finished copies of the books are received in the RBB office. Reviews are prepared by members of the Reference Book Bulletin Editorial Board and by guest reviewers. Draft reviews are submitted to Board members for criticism and revision; published reviews, therefore, represent the Board's collective judgment.