Collection Development Policy

Collection development is the ongoing process of assessing the materials available for purchase, subscription, or licensing, and making decisions about their inclusion and retention in the Library’s collections. 

Ultimate responsibility for materials selection rests with the Library’s Chief Executive Officer, who delegates most selection activities to Collection Management Services, Public Services, and Technology Services staff. 

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.

The Library is committed to providing collections that represent our customers’ diverse viewpoints, voices, interests, and experiences, and which inevitably contain information that some would find offensive or wrong. Selection of materials by the Library does not constitute endorsement of the material’s content or the views expressed. 

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. The Library’s collections are regularly used by researchers looking for historical or esoteric information. Some items in our collections could be considered offensive and inappropriate by modern standards, but are kept because of their historic or contextual relevance.

Selection criteria are developed and regularly reviewed by a Collection Collaboration Committee 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.)
Customer demand, both current and anticipated
Historical value
Initial and ongoing costs
Local or regional interest and significance
Need for collection breadth, depth, variety, and diversity of viewpoint
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
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.

Before placing materials in the children’s or teen sections, the Library has reviewed them and, based on information from publishers and reviewers, has decided they are appropriate for those collections. Generally, children’s sections of our Libraries contain books recommended for children 12 and under, while teen sections contain books recommended for ages 13 to 17. These designations are only recommendations; parents and caregivers are best qualified to determine which items their own children and teens can check out.

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

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 minors. The ultimate responsibility for use of materials by minors rests with their parents or legal guardians, and the Library provides resources to assist with these decisions.

City of St. Louis residents, individual City property owners, and certain other Library cardholders are eligible to request that we reconsider a particular item in the Library collection or its age-level designation. Other eligible card types are Resident, Nonresident, Educator, Staff, and Student eCard, as defined in our circulation policy. The form can be completed online here or printed from here. A printed form can be returned at any Library location or mailed to Chief Public Services Officer, St. Louis Public Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103. The Request for Reconsideration Committee will review and respond by letter or email to the request.

Please note that:

  • Incomplete forms cannot be considered
  • A form must be filled out for each individual item requested for reconsideration
  • During the review period, the material in question will remain available to the public
  • An item that has already been reconsidered will not be evaluated again until a year has passed 

Approved by Board of Directors July 10, 2023

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