Collection Development Policy


Ultimate responsibility for materials selection rests with the Library’s Chief Executive Officer, who delegates most selection activities to Library Collection Management Services and Public Services staff. The Library’s Technology Services staff is responsible for final operational decisions for electronic products, including hardware choices, network concerns, and technical evaluation of products.

Selectors are responsible for purchasing materials within established selection criteria; they share responsibility with the Library’s Public Services staff for continuous review and evaluation of the Library’s collections. The criteria established for selection reflect the needs and interests of the Library’s customers, the standards and principles described in this Collection Development Policy, effective use of taxpayer money, and the Library’s mission statement.

Selection of materials by the Library does not constitute endorsement of the material’s content or the views expressed. The Library serves customers with divergent views and interests, and the Library’s collections inevitably contain information that some would find offensive or wrong.


The City of St. Louis is a diverse, dynamic, and proud community with a rich history, and the Library strives to provide materials that reflect this heritage.

Selection criteria are developed and regularly reviewed by a Collection Advisory Team consisting of staff members from Administration, Collection Management Services, and Public Services.

The Library does not attempt to build comprehensive collections in every field of knowledge. All selectors must consider availability of space and budgetary restrictions when choosing resources for the Library. In addition, selectors consider the following criteria. These criteria apply to all materials, regardless of format or intended age level.

  • Accessibility of format
  • Accuracy and creative, literary, and technical quality
  • Authority and reputations of authors, composers, directors, and/or publishers
  • Availability of material elsewhere (area libraries, online, etc.)
  • Historical value
  • Initial and ongoing costs
  • Local or regional interest and significance
  • Need for collection breadth, depth, variety, and diversity of viewpoint
  • Public demand, both current and anticipated
  • Physical qualities that may affect suitability for Library circulation or housing
  • Recognition as award-winning or classic work
  • Relation of work to existing collections
  • Significant literary, artistic, political, or scientific value
  • Support of library programs or initiatives
  • Timeliness
  • Uniqueness of information

No materials that meet the Library’s selection criteria will be excluded because of the race, religion, nationality, origin, background, sexual orientation, or political views of those contributing to its creation or the material’s frankness of language, controversial content, or endorsement of an individual or group.


Sources used for selection include but are not limited to:

  • Published reviews from authoritative review publications
  • Publisher or vendor catalogs
  • Professional or trade bibliographies
  • Requests from schools or other partners
  • Requests from individual customers

Materials selected from any source, including donations and customer requests, are subject to the same selection criteria.


The Library generally does not acquire:

  • Materials intended for use or interpretation by medical, legal, engineering, or other professionally trained persons
  • Materials in outdated formats
  • Fragile items. Exceptions may be made for non-circulating special collections
  • Puzzle books, workbooks, and other consumable materials
  • Self-published materials
  • Textbooks


Materials donated to the Library become the property of the Library and are accepted with the understanding that they are subject to the same selection criteria applied to Library-purchased materials and may be sold or discarded. Determination of use, display, housing, processing, access, and disposition of all donated materials rests with the Library. Acknowledgment of gifts for tax records is provided upon request; however, the Library does not provide monetary appraisals of gifts for tax or other purposes. The Library may refuse a donation for any reason.

The Library also accepts funds to purchase materials. Funds donated for the Library’s collection development will be spent at the Library's discretion, based on Library-designated needs.


Deselection of materials is an ongoing process for the Library to maintain the currency, appeal, and usefulness of its collections. As items are added, others are reviewed for their ongoing value and sometimes withdrawn from the collection. As materials become outdated, damaged, or ineffective, they are withdrawn. If an item is considered important to the collection but is in poor physical condition and cannot be preserved, it is replaced if possible. Withdrawn materials become surplus property of the Library and may be sold, donated, or discarded at the Library’s discretion. While ultimate responsibility for decisions relating to deselection of materials rests with the Chief Executive Officer of the Library, staff in Collection Management Services and Public Services are responsible for evaluating and withdrawing materials.

The following factors are considered in identifying materials for withdrawal:

  • Appropriateness of the material in relation to the long-term development of the collection
  • Availability elsewhere in the community
  • Duplication of the same item
  • Historical value
  • Customer demand and usage
  • Physical condition
  • Timeliness and accuracy of information


Selection of materials for adults will not be restricted by the possibility that those materials may come into the possession of children. The ultimate responsibility for use of materials by children rests with their parents or legal guardians.


A St. Louis Public Library cardholder, a City of St. Louis resident, or an individual City of St. Louis property owner who wishes to lodge a complaint about a particular book or other Library material can complete a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form. The form can be completed online here or printed from here. The form should be completed in its entirety and returned to a Library staff member, who will refer it to the Chief Public Services Officer for review; it can also be mailed to Chief Public Services Officer, St. Louis Public Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103. During the review period, the material in question will remain available to the public. The Library will respond by letter or email to the request.

Approved by Board of Directors January 9, 2023

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