Is it time to review and update your collection development policy?

Is it time to review and update your collection development policy?

By on Sep 16, 2022 in Best Practices, Blog, Government and Public Sector, Public Libraries |

By Cari Dubiel

In recent years, materials challenges have ramped up in frequency and are even covered in mainstream media. All types of libraries are affected by this new wave, but it has hit school and public libraries the hardest. If your library hasn’t looked at its collection development policy in years, it’s time to do so.

A fresh collection development policy should include elements that may not have been present in past policies. As the materials landscape changes to include new formats…and old formats are aged out…policies need to include them. A recent news story covered a challenge against hoopla, a streaming platform for libraries [yes, it’s spelled with a lower-case ‘h’]. Hoopla includes books by many independent authors, which is great for access to high-quality indie works. However, without a review process, inaccurate and harmful items can slip through, and librarians may discover these materials in their collections without warning.

My recommendations for your update:

  • Study a strong collection development policy. How do you know if it’s strong?
    • Comes from a reliable source like ALA or one of its divisions.
    • Includes a mission statement and philosophy of collection development.
    • Includes clear definitions of what will be collected. Popular interest materials? Special collections? Items with professional reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, or Library Journal?
    • Includes criteria for de-selecting or ‘weeding’ the collection.


  • Think about relevant criteria for your type of library using the above questions.
  • As detailed above, include digital formats and platforms. Each of these should be subject to the same criteria as your print and audiovisual materials.
  • Include actions for gifts and donations to the library, particularly if those items do not meet the criteria you have laid out.
  • Include a provision for collecting materials by local authors.
  • Make sure you provide a process for evaluation of materials challenges. Most libraries will gather an ad hoc committee of professional librarians, who make a recommendation to the Director. If the Director agrees, the recommendation will be given to the Board, which can also veto it if they choose.

Your material challenge form should include the following questions:

  • Ask for patron name, address, phone number, e-mail address
  • Does the patron represent themself or an organization?
  • Ask for item name and description
  • What brought the material to the patron’s attention?
  • Has the patron reviewed the entirety of the material?
  • What is the concern about the material?
  • Has the patron investigated any resources regarding the material? Has the patron read any favorable reviews of the material?
  • What are the redeeming qualities of the material?

For more on this topic, seek a webinar presented by Stephanie Sendaula. She presents them live, and there is also a recording on YouTube here.

Cari Dubiel is a public library expert with 20-plus years of experience. Having worked from the ground up as a Shelver to her current management position with the Twinsburg Public Library, Cari understands the operational aspects of public libraries from both a staff and administrative perspective. Cari has managed projects such as technical services workflow development, software evaluation and implementation, collection development analysis, employee onboarding and training, and website usability. She holds a bachelors’ degree from Hiram College and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Kent State University. She is also an adjunct faculty member at KSU in the iSchool program. She presents frequently for PCI Webinars and has also presented for NEO-RLS, OLC, and public library staff development days. A former Library Liaison to the National board of Sisters in Crime, Cari is very active in the publishing industry. She is represented by Lynnette Novak of the Seymour Agency and is the lead editor for Writing Bloc Books.