The Purpose of a Collection Development Policy
The purpose of a collection development policy is to create a collection of library materials that supports the library's mission. All decisions about the kinds of materials to be collected or accessed should be made with the mission statement in mind. For example, if an elementary school library's mission is to support the curriculum, it will not be interested in collecting adult fiction. However, if the library also has a mission to be a resource for teachers, it will collect some professional materials on elementary education. The collection development policy sets goals for the collection that reflect the library's mission.
The collection development policy provides information to the library's stakeholders about how the collection is chosen, and it explains who is responsible for making decisions about the collection.
Your collection development policy provides information for people who are interested in the library's collection. These people include:
the staff who have responsibility for selecting and maintaining the collection under the guidelines set by the governing body,
members of the public who may want to know why certain material is or is not included in the collection,
and the library's governing body (e.g. public library board, school board), which wants to have a consistent position regarding the library's collection.
Responsibility for the Collection Development Policy
Both the staff and the library's governing body have responsibilities for creating a collection development policy.
The staff is responsible for providing information to the governing body about the use of the collection and the kinds of requests that are being made from the library's clientele. The staff may also do some of the footwork in finding out how other libraries have responded to particular collection development problems. It is not unusual for the staff to create drafts of a policy for the governing body to consider.
Once the policy has been approved by the governing body, the staff creates the procedures necessary to implement the policy.
The Governing Body's Responsibility
The library's governing body may draft the policy itself or it may respond to the staff's drafts of the policy. The governing body must consider the internal and external implications of the policy for the library. It may want to check how the policy will affect major stakeholder groups of the library, either by talking to representatives of the stakeholder groups or by holding a public hearing on the policy.
The governing body makes all final decisions about the policy. It must approve the policy before the policy goes into effect. After approving the policy, the governing body should periodically review the policy so that it addresses new issues as they arise.
The Collection Development Policy and Intellectual Freedom
One important function of the collection development policy is to state the library's position on intellectual freedom and to describe the library's policy and procedures for dealing with complaints about its materials.
A good library will have materials that some people will find objectionable. Although complaints often center on sexuality, library materials have been challenged for many different reasons. For example, Huckleberry Finn was challenged when it was first written because it promoted racial harmony. More recently, it has been challenged because its use of some words is considered bigoted. A book on locksmithing was challenged because it could be used by burglars to break into houses. Alice in Wonderland has been challenged because someone felt it promoted drug use. Even the Bible has been challenged because people felt its content was unsuitable for children.
The collection development policy for a good library explains that once materials have been selected by the library, they cannot be removed without following a thorough process of evaluation, which has been approved by the library's governing body. It places the burden of proof on the person or persons wishing to remove the material. It explains the process by which a request for removal can be made and includes the necessary forms for making such a request.
Intellectual freedom is one of the fundamental principles of librarianship, and this topic will be discussed more fully later in the course.
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