Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries
Under the best professional standards, reconsideration policies ask those charged with reviewing a challenged book or other resource to set aside their personal beliefs and evaluate the work in light of the objective standards outlined in the library’s materials selection policy. Listed below are some best practices for Reconsideration Committee members:
- Bear in mind the principles of the freedom to read and base your decision on these broad principles rather than in defense of individual materials. Based in the First Amendment, the freedom to read is essential to our democracy.
- Read or view all materials referred to you including the full text of the material in question, available reviews, and notices of awards, if applicable.
- Review the library mission statement, materials selection and reconsideration policies, and professional guides such as the Intellectual Freedom Manual.
- The general acceptance of the materials should be checked by consulting standard evaluation aids and your institution’s selection policies.
- Challenged materials should not be removed from the collection while under reconsideration.
- Passages or parts of the work in question should not be pulled out of context. The values and faults should be weighed against each other and the opinions based on the materials as a whole.
- In order to prevent a tie vote, the library director (public and academic libraries) or principal (school libraries) should recruit an odd number of members for the committee.
- While it may be prudent to state what area/role a committee member represents in the makeup of the committee (ie, teacher, librarian, community member, administration, parent, etc), the personal identification of each member should remain anonymous to protect the objectivity of the deliberation.
- The reconsideration committee meeting may be closed depending on state law and local practice. While public comments may be useful, these comments should be directed to the principal, director or governing body.
- The committee’s recommendation is to be an objective evaluation of the material within the scope of a library’s selection policy.
- The committee’s report, presenting both majority and minority opinions, should be presented to the governing body or administrator, as directed in the reconsideration process, with a recommendation to retain the material in its original location, to relocate the material, or to remove the material. The report may differ depending on the type of resource that is being challenged, such as library material, display, curriculum, reading list etc.
- Establish a procedure for communicating the committee’s recommendation to the governing body or administrator and to the person who made the formal reconsideration request. For example, the committee communicates its decision to the director or principal, who then communicates the decision to the person who make the challenge as well as to the institution’s governing board.
Sample Reconsideration Committee Report
Has every member of the committee read the material entirely? If not, why?
Resources consulted: (include policies, articles, reviews etc.)
Reconsideration committee recommends:
Justification and comments: (include majority and minority positions)
Signatures of Reconsideration Committee Members:
Note: This report is forwarded to:
Basic Components of a Selection Policy
Library Mission | Support for Intellectual Freedom | Objectives | Responsibility for Selection | Selection Criteria | Acquisitions Procedures | Special Collections | Selecting Controversial Materials | Gifts and Donations | Collection Maintenance and Weeding | Policy Revision | Reconsideration
Guiding Principles | Statement of Policy | Informal Complaints | Request for Formal Reconsideration | Sample Reconsideration Form | Sample Letter to Complainant | Reconsideration Committees