Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries
The reconsideration section in the selection policy establishes the framework for any person or group registering a complaint or formal challenge to library resources and possible resolutions for all involved. The procedure for handling complaints and for reconsidering challenged materials should be clearly enunciated in the policy statement and applicable to everyone. The policy should stress that no materials will be removed without following the full reconsideration policy and no materials should be removed upon the authority of a single staff member or administrator. Avenues of appeal to the library’s board, oversight committee, or governing body should be clearly presented for both those who seek a work’s removal and those who desire its retention. In this section, sample policy text and procedures are offered to assist library staff to manage informal verbal complaints and formal written challenges fairly and confidently.
Public Library Reconsideration
Allowing for public comment is an essential part of any collection development policy. By providing a process for reconsideration of materials, the library recognizes the importance of varying points of view among the community for whom they provide service. A well designed reconsideration process provides structure for allowing people to voice their opinions. It also allows the library to consider a request for reconsideration with a level of objectivity and fairness.
Example: Public Library Reconsideration Policy
The library fully endorses the principles documented in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement of the American Library Association. Materials available in the library present a diversity of viewpoints, enabling citizens to make the informed choices necessary in a democracy. The library also selects a wide variety of library materials that satisfy the diverse interests of our community. The library upholds the right of the individual to secure these resources, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to some. The library’s varied collection is available to all; however, it is not expected that all of the collection will appeal to everyone.
Patrons who wish to request the withdrawal or reclassification of materials currently owned by the library are encouraged to discuss their concerns with a library supervisor or its director. If the patron is not satisfied with the response to their request, the manager will provide the patron with information and a form to request formal reconsideration of the library resource. Withdrawn books are donated to the Friends of the Library for book sales. The proceeds from such sales are used for the benefit of the library. Books that are not sold will be disposed of at the discretion of the Friends of the Library.
School Library Reconsideration
School libraries receive a large number of complaints about their library resources. It is important for school librarians to be prepared for both oral complaints and the possibility of informal concerns becoming requests for formal reconsideration. Part of being prepared is having a current board-approved selection policy with both informal and formal reconsideration procedures and having library staff, administrators, and school board members be familiar with the document. Additionally, having annual conversations with the principal about the selection policy, including reviewing the reconsideration process, ensures that administrators are familiar with and able to respond to library resource complaints. In determining who should have the right to bring forth an informal or formal request for reconsideration, districts should consider the ramifications of limiting or expanding who can request reconsideration. Too limiting may result in individuals seeking means to challenge materials outside of the formal procedures for reconsideration. Too broad may result in outside pressure groups utilizing the reconsideration procedures to bring multiple challenges to force their perspectives.
Example: School Library Reconsideration Policy
Despite the careful selection of library resources and the qualification of those involved in the selection process, objections to library resources that are deemed offensive or inappropriate may occur. Any resident, employee, or student of the school district may express an informal concern or formal request for reconsideration of a library resource.
Academic Library Reconsideration
Academic libraries see fewer requests than other types of libraries to remove material from the collection. Academic libraries, however, do face challenges so it is necessary for all academic libraries to have a reconsideration policy and procedure in place. Procedures for handling requests are often outlined in a document that is separate from the reconsideration policy. Procedures usually include a reconsideration form, a timeline for responding, and an appeals process. The example below is language for the policy. Many examples of detailed procedures and reconsideration forms may be found by searching for university library reconsideration procedures online.
Example: Academic Library Reconsideration Policy
Materials in the library are selected to support the instructional and research needs of the university community. A person who wishes to request the reconsideration of library material must file a formal written request for reconsideration using the library-provided form. The request will be reviewed by the appropriate subject librarian and the head of Acquisitions. Together, these librarians will develop a recommendation that will be submitted to the dean of libraries. The dean of libraries is responsible for making the final decision.
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