Politics and Timing of Policy Creation

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

If your library does not have a selection policy, the time to begin writing one is today. Every library needs an up-to-date selection policy with a reconsideration process; however, the time to write the policy or make changes is not during a formal challenge to a library resource. Wait to begin policy creation, or make revisions, until after the final decision in a reconsideration process has been made to prevent any appearance of manipulating the process. Following a challenge is the ideal time to reflect on the experience and use that new knowledge to write or revamp a policy.

Local politics can have considerable influence on a governing board’s or committee’s adoption of library policy. In most cases, a library’s or school’s governing board, or in some cases a university committee, must approve its selection policy. Members of these groups may bring a variety of political perspectives but also establish credibility and ensure local buy-in to the selection policy approval process.

When a library is governed by a board, the ideal orientation process for new board members will include a grounding in the principles of intellectual freedom and the library’s role in encouraging freedom of inquiry and the development of an informed citizenry or a student body with an ability to weigh competing ideas and draw informed conclusions. A board with a good grounding in these principles is better prepared for its role in adopting a materials selection policy and hearing challenges to library materials. If the board has not received this type of orientation at the time of their election or appointment, it is prudent to offer this information before it embarks on selection policy approval.

Training for public library trustees is offered by some state libraries, although this is not the case for school boards. Librarians can seek assistance from the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, which offers Advocacy & Intellectual Freedom Bootcamps to library boards and trustees. The ALA Intellectual Freedom Manual is another excellent resource and points to such foundational documents as the U.S. Constitution, the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations, and the Freedom to Read Statement.

Academic libraries have many different governance structures. Librarians and/or library departments and committees write, develop, or revise selection policies. When approval outside the library is needed, academic librarians should work within the structure of the academic institution to seek official approval of such policies.

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