Gifts and Donations

Every library — academic, public, and school (public, private, charter, independent, and international) — should have a comprehensive written policy that guides the selection, deselection or weeding, and reconsideration of library resources. The most valuable selection policy is current; it is reviewed and revised on a regular basis; and it is familiar to all members of a library’s staff. The policy should be approved by the library’s governing board or other policy-making body and disseminated widely for understanding by all stakeholders.

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

The acquisition of gifts and donations can be a valuable part of every library’s collection development strategy. All libraries should have a gift and donation policy that clearly describes the terms of acceptance and outlines all steps from the evaluation process to the acknowledgement letter. This policy and set of procedures is usually found in the institution’s selection policy and/or acquisitions document. Specific procedures for acquiring donated materials varies among library types. As with all material selection, the acquisition of gifts and donations should be consistent with the institution’s mission and policies.

Libraries are often faced with donations from well-meaning people who assume older materials are welcomed as additions to the library’s collection. In all cases, it is important to explain to donors that their gifts and/or donations are accepted only if they meet the library’s selection criteria. Organizations with points of view and authors promoting their own work may also donate materials. Due to limited space, time, and staffing, some libraries may decide not to accept donations or may decide to limit the types of donations that are accepted. If a library decides not to accept donations or decides to limit donations, a statement describing the policy should be a part of the library’s acquisition document. If the library accepts donations, it is important to state that the donated item becomes the property of the library and will not be returned to the donor if it is not added to the collection.

Public Library Gifts and Donations

An explanation of the library’s gift acceptance policy is a key piece of the selection policy. It allows collection development to adhere to the selection strategy while also serving as an important donor relations tool. The gifts and donations portion of the policy should spell out the ways the public can help and enhance their library while also creating clear expectations about the library’s selection process and the collection’s role in meeting the overall mission of the library. Having this section of the policy in place can make conversations with potential donors much easier by expressing gratitude for the desire to support the library and explaining what types of support are most helpful.

Example: Public Library Gifts and Donations

Accepting gifts and donations is an important way for the public library to benefit from the generosity of the community it serves. Gifts and donations of materials are reviewed using the same criteria as purchases. The library reserves the right to dispose of any gifts that are given to the library. The library will determine how to best incorporate such materials into the existing collections. Materials not added to library collections may be used for programs or given to other local organizations such as schools, senior centers, or Friends of the Library groups.

Gifts received by the library that are not added to the library’s collection shall be forwarded to the appropriate Friends of the Library group for their disposition at a future sale. The proceeds from this sale shall accrue directly to the benefit of the library, in a fashion consistent with accepted library policies and services as determined by the Board of Trustees. Any items unsold by the Friends of the Library may then be donated to another organization or discarded.

Funds may be given for the purpose of acquiring materials recommended by library staff as prescribed in this policy, or for purchase of specific items suggested by the donor. When the library receives a cash gift for the purchase of materials, the library staff must make the selection with the general selection principles set forth in this policy.

All public libraries contain materials that some patrons may find objectionable. Libraries may omit from the collection materials that some patrons feel are important. In either case, the library has procedures that patrons may use in requesting the reconsideration of materials.

School Library Gifts and Donations

School libraries are often the beneficiaries of donations and gifts. Although these libraries frequently experience tight budgets, school librarians should thank donors for their consideration and tactfully inform donors that all donations and gifts are evaluated using the same selection criteria laid out in the selection policy as purchased materials. Additionally, school librarians might maintain a list of suggested titles that donors might purchase as gifts in honor or memory of individuals for the school library collection.

Example: School Library Gifts and Donations

Gifts and donations to the school library are accepted with the understanding that the decision for use and disposition of the materials and/or funds will be determined using the same selection criteria as purchased materials. All materials should support the curriculum and needs of library users. Gifts and donations, like purchased resources, will be removed from the collection at the end of their useful life.

Academic Library Gifts and Donations

The acquisition of gifts and donations should be evaluated based on the academic institution’s mission and policy. Accepted material should support the curriculum, special collections, and research needs of the college community as outlined in the library’s acquisition procedure and selection policy.

Example: Academic Library Gifts and Donations

Gifts are accepted, with the understanding that the library may add them to the collection at its discretion or dispose of them if they do not meet the standards for selection. As a general rule, gift books will be added to the collection based on the same criteria as purchased material. The library reserves the right to determine the retention, location, cataloging treatment, and other considerations related to the use or disposition of all gifts. The library assumes no responsibility for appraisal of gift items, nor can the library accept items under restricted conditions.

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