Responsibility for Selection

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

In public and academic libraries, the governing body of the institution is technically responsible for the resources in its library; however, it often delegates this responsibility to others. In school libraries, the school board is legally responsible for the resources in school libraries; however, it often delegates this to the professional school library staff. Although many people contribute to the selection process by recommending resources for the library in an advisory capacity, the policy should clearly state that the responsibility for coordinating and making final decisions rests with the library professional staff.

Public Library Responsibility for Selection

Collection development and management varies depending on the size of the library. In larger library systems, it is achieved through the participatory efforts of centralized materials selection coordinators and branch/department managers. In smaller libraries, these responsibilities can be carried out by one or more librarians charged with the selection and management of those resources. Regardless of the size of the public library, the communication of patron requests and needs is a vital part of this process. Communication among library staff is also essential to patron-oriented collections.

Example: Public Library Responsibility for Selection

Staff contributes to the development of patron-oriented collections by:

  • Engaging in open, continuous two-way communication with library patrons and recognizing that individuals have different ways of expressing their needs based on age, language, economic status, culture, or other characteristics
  • Interacting with patrons with understanding, respect, and responsiveness
  • Handling all requests equitably
  • Working in partnership with one another to understand and respond to community needs
  • Understanding and responding to rapidly changing demographics, as well as societal and technological changes
  • Recognizing that materials of varying complexities and formats are necessary to satisfy diverse needs of library users
  • Balancing individual needs and broader community needs in determining the best allocation of collection budget for acquiring or providing access to materials and information
  • Seeking continuous improvement through ongoing measurement
  • Reviewing the collection on a regular basis to identify areas of community interest that may need to be strengthened

School Library Responsibility for Selection

Although the Board of Education or governing authority is legally responsible for the resources used in a school, it delegates the selection of the library’s resources to its professional school library personnel. Many selection policies direct the library professional to seek recommendations and work collaboratively with others in the school community during the selection process. Teachers, students, administrators, and others participate by making recommendations; however, strong policies state that the final responsibility for the selection decisions rests with the school library professional.

Example: School Library Responsibility for Selection

The elected Board of Education shall delegate to the superintendent of schools or district administrator the authority and responsibility for selection of library materials in all formats. Responsibility for actual selection rests with professionally trained library personnel using the board’s adopted selection criteria and procedures.

Academic Library Responsibility for Selection

In academic libraries, librarians or library faculty are responsible for selecting items for the collection. Librarians may have experience in specialized subject areas of collection development and/or may collaborate with academic faculty in the institution. Staff, faculty, and students may make recommendations for purchase. Academic librarians are guided by the institution’s curriculum and the library’s selection policy that outlines the types of material a library will collect. Librarians in academic libraries are responsible for making the final decisions regarding a library’s collection.

Example: Academic Library Responsibility for Selection

The Board of Trustees delegates the responsibility for the selection of library materials to the library faculty, who are qualified by education, training, and experience to select library materials in all formats.

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