Acquisitions Procedures

Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries

Acquisitions procedures should describe all steps from initial screening to final selection. It is important to list the type of materials that are collected, why they are needed, and how they are obtained.

In addition to selection of new resources, policies on re-evaluation (weeding), replacing and repairing materials, and gift materials may also be included. The specific procedures for acquiring material for a library’s collection will vary between library types and individual libraries. Patron recommendations for acquisitions are often encouraged in all library types. Selectors are responsible for reading reviews and staying informed about current trends in purchasing, and the library’s professional staff is responsible for making the final decisions about acquiring material.

Acquisitions Procedures in Public Libraries

Ideally, in larger public libraries, multiple members of a library’s staff are responsible for reviewing material for purchase. The selection policy will outline the specific areas in which a library collects materials. Those areas should be identified and selectors should be assigned for the identified collection areas. In a smaller library, one person may be responsible for selecting resources.

Example: Public Library Acquisitions Procedures

The public library has a number of selectors on the staff, each responsible for a different level of collection development:

  • The general manager of the main library and the general manager of branches and mobile services have the system-wide responsibility for the overall selection and maintenance of all materials and formats within the collection of the library. This responsibility is monitored by the library director and assistant director, and is delegated to these individuals as a result of their education, training, experience, and job classification.
  • All materials and formats are selected or approved for the library’s collection by a main library division manager, or by staff members within that division, who are qualified to do so by reason of education, training, experience, knowledge of subject area, and job classification.
  • Approved materials can be selected for the various collections within each branch library or mobile services unit by the branch library manager, mobile services manager, or other agency staff who are qualified to do so by reason of education, training, experience, or job classification.


Acquisitions Procedures in School Libraries

Because most school libraries have only a single school librarian, that individual is responsible for creating a collection to support instruction, literacy, and students’ recreational reading. Materials selection policies generally mandate that the library professional seek input from teachers, other professional staff, and students. School librarians are also responsible for weeding or de-selecting collection materials following policy guidelines as well as making a decision as to whether gift items will be accepted.

Example: School Library Acquisitions Procedures

  • In selecting learning resources, professional personnel will evaluate available resources and curriculum needs and will consult reputable, professionally prepared aids to selection, and other appropriate sources. The actual resource will be examined whenever possible.
  • Recommendations for purchase involve administrators, teachers, students, district personnel, and community members, as appropriate.
  • Gift materials shall be judged by the selection criteria and shall be accepted or rejected by those criteria.
  • Selection is an ongoing process that should include removing materials that are no longer used or needed, adding materials, and replacing lost and worn materials that still have educational value.


Acquisitions Procedures in Academic Libraries

Ideally, multiple members of a library’s staff are responsible for reviewing material for purchase. The selection policy should outline the specific areas in which a library will collect, and professional library staff members should be assigned to select material for specific collection areas. Librarians may consult and get input from faculty about purchase, but the final acquisition decisions are the responsibility of the appointed librarian or librarians.

Example: Academic Library Acquisitions Procedures

Item selection is done by professional librarians (selectors) with support from the faculty. Each selector is responsible for recommending material for purchase in their assigned subject areas. Selectors may work with their respective faculty members to identify material and make purchasing decisions that best meet the curriculum goals.


Home | Introduction
Why Do I Need a Policy? | Politics and Timing of Policy Creation | Selection Policies for Non-Public Institutions

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

Reconsideration Procedure
Guiding Principles | Statement of Policy | Informal Complaints | Request for Formal Reconsideration | Sample Reconsideration Form | Sample Letter to Complainant | Reconsideration Committees

Intellectual Freedom Core Documents | Challenge Support and Reporting Censorship | Bibliography of Additional Selection and Reconsideration Policy Resources

Updated January 2018 by ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom