Policies and Procedures

When a challenge comes, a selection policy offers educators a way to explain the curriculum or selection to parents.

Library acquisition policies commonly include qualifications such as favourable literary reviews, best-book lists, awards and popular demand. Here are some criteria suggested in Library Collections, by Richard K. Gardner (McGraw-Hill, 1981). (An item does not have to meet all the criteria to be selected.):

  • Authoritativeness (background and reputation of the author/creator, publisher and sponsoring body)
  • Accuracy
  • Impartiality
  • Recency of data
  • Adequate scope (how thoroughly does it cover the subject?)
  • Depth of coverage
  • Appropriateness (e.g.. to reading level of intended user; suitability of the medium)
  • Relevance
  • Interest
  • Organization
  • Style
  • Aesthetic qualities
  • Technical aspects (quality of reproductions, etc.)
  • Physical characteristics (will the book stand up to wear? Is the typeface easy to read?)
  • Special features
  • Library potential (relation to the collection; demand)
  • Cost and cost-effectiveness

For schools, the selection policy should take into account the instructional objectives and criteria.

» ALA Workbook for Selection Policy Writing

Objection Policies

Library objections should be accepted in writing only, on a standard reconsideration form you supply. (Schools often allow a less formal initial discussion if the complainant is the parent of a pupil at the school.) Schools should offer parents who object to material an acceptable alternative for their children, without allowing them to make this decision for the children of others.

Donations policies should be consistent. The University of Manitoba policy, for example, states that “The Libraries apply the same selection criteria when they accept gifts as they do when they purchase new materials.”

Policies for Booksellers

Where municipal by-laws govern display of “adult” materials, booksellers are well advised to conform to them. Also, recent case law suggests that ignorance of the content can be a successful defence, though the retailer cannot be wilfully blind. Boards of directors can protect themselves by instituting a policy that the store manager should inspect materials and use his or her judgement.

The Importance of Training

Make sure to inform staff about these policies when they are hired, and train them accordingly. You don’t want a situation where the police arrive at your counter and find a person who agrees wholeheartedly that books should be removed. Also, teachers should be completely familiar with teaching materials before introducing them to the students.