Collection Development Policy

(Approved by the Library Board January 22, 2007. Amended April 19, 2009.  Addendum approved September 22, 2009.)


The population of the St. Louis County Library District represents a diversity of age, background, religion, ethnicity, culture, education, socioeconomic level and lifestyle. This diversity is reflected in the broad range of materials that comprise the collection of the St. Louis County Library. In order to celebrate diversity within our community, the library will increase the emphasis on the purchase of books, magazines and audiovisual materials which reflect our cultural diversity.

The district's population has a high percentage of library cardholders and makes heavy use of the collection. Customer use is the most powerful influence on the library's collection, and much of the library's use is from new and popular adult books, children's materials and items in audiovisual and electronic formats. Circulation, customer purchase requests and holds levels are all closely monitored, triggering the purchase of new items and additional copies of high-demand items to be included in the collection. In addition to customer demand, selections are made to provide depth and diversity of viewpoints to the existing collection.

Inherent in this philosophy is an appreciation for each customer of the St. Louis County Library. Without placing a value on one customer's needs or preferences over another, the library upholds the right of the individual to secure materials to support informational, educational and recreational needs.

Statement of Responsibility

Ultimate responsibility for the selection of library materials lies with the director of the library within the framework of the policy set by the library Board of Trustees. The director may delegate the actual selection and deselection of material to qualified library staff.

General Selection and Deselection Criteria

General Selection Criteria

The general criteria listed below apply to the selection of all materials for the St. Louis County Library. Materials are evaluated as complete works and not on the basis of a particular passage. A work will not be excluded from the library's collection solely because it represents a particular aspect of life, frankness of expression or because it is controversial. Not all titles selected will meet all of the criteria listed, but will meet at least one of the following:

  • Public demand and interest
  • Timeliness and/or significance of the subject
  • Reviews in professionally recognized sources
  • Local or community relevance
  • Authority and competence of the author and/or reputation and standing of the publisher
  • Contribution to diversity, depth or breadth of collection
  • Effectiveness and suitability of format, durability and ease of use
  • Replacement of lost or worn copies or updating of outmoded information
  • Availability of information in other format
  • Cost/impact on materials budget
  • Support of library's mission roles

Customers' purchase suggestions and requests are an important consideration. Titles are added to the collection as long as they meet the stated selection criteria. Each purchase request submitted will be reviewed by library staff. If a title is considered to be outside the scope of our collection development policy, the purchase request will not be filled.

In general, the library will purchase a minimum of four copies per title. Often, additional copies will be ordered to satisfy collection needs. If a title does not warrant the purchase of four copies, it will not be included in the library's collection.

Exceptions to the four-copy minimum include:

  • Reference materials
  • Titles for various special collections, as defined in this policy
  • Materials that cost more than $100 per item
  • Professional literature
  • Periodicals

Final decisions will be made at the discretion of the library.

General Selection Tools

St. Louis County Library uses the following resources when selecting material for the collection:

  • Professional journals
  • Trade journals
  • Subject biographies
  • Publishers' catalogs and promotional material
  • Reviews from reputable sources
  • Popular and news magazines
  • Related websites and commercial websites

General Deselection Criteria

The systematic removal of materials from the collection, or deselection, is an important component of total collection development. Ongoing evaluation of materials is necessary in order to maintain a current, accurate and inviting collection. Deselection improves the accessibility of the remaining materials, enhances the appearance of the collection, and helps improve the overall circulation of materials.

Deselected materials cannot be reserved. Discarded materials become surplus property and may be sold by the library for fundraising purposes or discarded at the library's discretion.

The decision to deselect an item takes into account the same criteria used when the item was first selected for inclusion in the collection. Additionally, the following criteria should apply when evaluating the collection:


  • Frequency of circulation
  • In-house use
  • Outdated or inaccurate information--materials older than three years in the fields of travel, science, health, medicine, finance, law and interrelated topics should be carefully examined.


  • Subject matter no longer of current interest or historical or literary significance
  • Historical importance: community or regional interest
  • Availability of other materials in the field
  • Physical appearance/condition relative to other factors of importance
  • Multiple copies of title no longer in demand


  • Worn/damaged
  • Aged

Audiovisual materials: The library considers the same criteria during the deselection process for audiovisual materials. Worn and damaged materials will be removed from the collection. Additionally, outdated formats will be removed from the collection in a timely manner.

Adult Fiction Materials

Classics of literature, best sellers, critically acclaimed first time authors, translations of foreign works and genre fiction make up the fiction collection of St. Louis County Library. Mysteries, westerns and science fiction titles are shelved in separate sections of the library for the browsing and reading convenience of the customer. The primary purpose of the fiction collection is to satisfy the heavy demand for recreational reading from the general public. The fiction collection is comprised mainly of British and American works. The library attempts to work with local educational institutions to provide fiction titles on reading lists when possible.

Because of the volume of new fiction published each year, very few titles will be collected retrospectively. Exceptions will be made for new editions or translations of classic titles or to replace missing or worn-out copies of classics. Special emphasis is given to providing multiple copies of high-demand titles in order to fill customer requests as quickly as possible.

In addition to the general and genre fiction categories which are cataloged, the library maintains an uncataloged paperback collection. This collection consists of mass market paperbacks written in any of the fiction categories.

Genre fiction consists of the following categories:

  • Collections: Collections of short stories, while shelved with general fiction, have the call number COLLECTION.
  • Mystery: The mystery collection includes a wide range of detective and mystery writers. While not necessarily excluded from this genre, espionage, suspense and adventure stories are typically included in the general FICTION call number.
  • Science Fiction: Futuristic societies, other planets, both real and invented, and far-advanced scientific procedures characterize this genre.
  • Western: The western genre consists of traditional western themes. They are most often historical in nature and depict the Old West of the United States.

Adult Non-Fiction Materials

The library collects non-fiction in all subject areas. The library's collection will be examined and new materials ordered based on the General Selection Criteria. The subject areas to be reviewed are:

  • Generalities: encyclopedias, writing manuals, computers
  • Philosophy and psychology
  • Religion
  • Social sciences: politics, social welfare, education
  • Languages
  • Science and math
  • Applied sciences: health and medicine, cookbooks, gardening, do-it-yourself projects
  • Arts and recreation: arts and crafts, music, movies, sports
  • Literature
  • Geography and history

Each subject area of the non-fiction collection will be reviewed and maintained on a rotating basis.

Teen Materials

The teen collection consists of material considered to be of particular interest to adolescents in grades 6-12. It is not intended to be a comprehensive collection serving all the needs and interests of young adults, nor is it the library's intention that teens should be confined to the use of this material.

Teens may use a wider range of library materials than any other age group. Some items are purchased only for the teen collection. However, some items found here are duplicated in the children's collection, in the adult collection or in both.

Materials are selected for this collection to broaden the horizons of teens and help them to cope with the problems of adolescence. To fulfill these needs, the collection will inevitably include materials on controversial or sensitive topics. Because of the wide range of maturity and reading levels among individual teens, the suitability of any particular item must be determined on an individual basis by the parent or guardian of that teen.

Children's Materials

To encourage lifelong reading habits, the children's collection of the St. Louis County Library primarily serves children from birth through grade nine, as well as their parents, teachers, caregivers and other professionals. The library provides books and other media of the best available quality for recreational use, general information and curriculum support. The materials are selected with regard to literary excellence, accuracy, timeliness of factual material, high-quality art and illustration and the stages of emotional and intellectual development of children. The children's collection is reviewed and maintained on a rotating basis in all subject areas.

Although the library facilities are divided into sections such as Juvenile, Reference, Fiction, Nonfiction, etc. for the convenience of the public, customers of any age may use all parts of the library. The classification scheme, reviews by professionals and the librarians' expertise contribute to the proper placement of material.

The children's collection often reflects reality, and as such, it may include material which is controversial or offensive to some. The library staff does not serve in loco parentis. It is the responsibility of the parent/guardian, not the library staff, to monitor library use by children.

Areas of collection development in the print children's collection include:

  • Picture Books and Easy Readers: The library provides picture books for reading aloud and sharing with children from preschool to grade two. In these books, the text and pictures should complement each other. Sentences should be rhythmic and vocabulary distinctive and appropriate for the child's listening or reading ability.
  • Fiction: Fiction is selected mainly for grades three through nine.
  • Non-fiction: Non-fiction should be accurate, objective and consistently appropriate to the age of the reader. Bilingual books to assist with learning another language are selected as well as a few translations of easy children's books originally published in English.
  • Reference: The non-circulating reference collection, while not extensive, consists of books needed to answer specific questions and to assist with the location of material in other books. It includes encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, bibliographic aids, indexes, important lists, definitive books in subject areas and books related to the subject of children's literature.
  • Uncataloged Paperback Books and Board Books: The children's paperback collection is intended to be a popular reading collection consisting mainly of mass market series publications. Board books are early picture books with simple stories geared toward infants and toddlers.

Media Collection

The library district's goal is to provide a collection of instructional, educational and recreational-based audio and visual materials that will enhance the library's existing nonfiction and fiction collections. The media collections will follow the same selection and deselection criteria as the rest of the library's collections. The content of the media collection may contain materials deemed objectionable by some. Individuals are advised to use the collection at their own discretion.

Periodically, new forms of media are introduced and are studied carefully to assess their suitability for public library use. Sufficient time is given to properly determine whether they will receive lasting and widespread acceptance before they are added to the library.

  • The visual collection consists mainly of informational, how-to, documentary, children's and popular entertainment titles. The collection includes feature-length movies (juvenile and adult) intended for home use. When purchasing visual materials, the library considers the following MPAA guidelines: G, PG, PG-13 and R. Select materials are purchased without MPAA ratings such as television programs, foreign films, non-fiction films and classic films.
  • The spoken word collection is compromised of a diversified collection of both fiction and non-fiction materials. The fiction collection includes contemporary and classic fiction with an emphasis on best selling authors. The non-fiction collection covers a range of subject areas including best sellers, instructional and self-improvement recordings on topics such as business skills or motivation.
  • The music collection is a diverse representation of all categories of music. This includes, but is not limited to: pop, R&B, country, jazz, world, gospel, sacred, show tunes, classical, opera, etc.


The reference collection is a non-circulating collection selected for accuracy, authority and depth of coverage. The reference collection comprises print materials and some electronic resources, purchased outright or by annual subscription. It includes encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, bibliographic aids, indexes, business and financial resources, and definitive books in select subject areas. Undue duplication of materials is avoided, either in the library itself, or with other institutions in the community. Esoteric or very technical works, and materials available elsewhere to special interest groups, are generally excluded from the reference collection.

Government Documents

The St. Louis County Library is a partial depository for federal government documents since 1970. The depository is housed at Library Headquarters. In addition, the library collects many Missouri State and St. Louis County documents.

Large Print

The library collects large-print editions of fiction and non-fiction materials. The large print collection is primarily a duplication of titles already in the library in standard type.


The periodical collection consists primarily of magazines and newspapers. Selection criteria include professional reviews, public interest, availability, space and cost.

A broad range of general interest subject areas are covered in the periodicals collection. Full-text access in electronic format is also available for some magazine and newspaper articles through the library's database pages. The choice of which periodicals are available as online journals as well as the number of simultaneous users is determined by the publisher. Some historical St. Louis newspapers are available on microfilm.

Electronic Resources

Electronic resources are a diverse collection of reference and circulating materials that are accessed electronically. This collection offers access to databases, serials, books and audiovisual materials in a variety of non-traditional formats. Electronic resources will follow the same selection and deselection criteria as the rest of the library's collections. In addition, these factors are considered:

  • The resource must meet a community need.
  • The impact on the materials budget must be considered in relation to usage.
  • Reference content must be authoritative and trustworthy.
  • The resource must be technically compatible and user-friendly.
  • Licensing issues must be addressed.

Subject areas will be considered for database coverage on an annual basis. The library will attempt to make as many electronic resources available from home as is permitted by licensing agreements. When home access is possible, customers may use these resources by inputting a valid St. Louis County Library card.

New formats will be considered for purchase as demand and use dictate. Some titles may be purchased in several formats in order to serve the most patrons. Availability of items in the format, the cost per item and the library's ability to acquire and handle the items will also be factors in determining when a new format will be collected. Similar considerations will influence the decision to delete a format from the library's collection.

Special Collections

Special collections have been established as the result of historical precedent and community interest. St. Louis County Library develops subject collections that currently include genealogy, local history and foreign languages. These special collections are held in specific locations which include facilities to support the collection. Selections for all special collections will be evaluated using several criteria that may be unique to these materials including availability from library vendors, existence of cataloging records and compatibility of formats. Materials may be dropped or added to the collection as community needs dictate.

Priority will be given to maintaining those special collections to which the library district has made a commitment. Branch libraries may collect materials in subject areas of interest to local communities and will be supported to the extent that space and budget allow.

Gifts and Donations

The St. Louis County Library accepts undesignated monetary gifts from groups and individuals in the form of bequests or memorials through the St. Louis County Library Foundation. Monies donated toward the collection development fund will be spent at the library's discretion, based on library-designated needs.

If an unestablished author wishes to submit a title for inclusion in the collection, it must meet the same criteria as all other material. The book must be published by an established publishing house and/or be favorably reviewed in a mainstream publication.

Books donated to any facility in the system become the property of the system as a whole. Typically, these items are not added to the collection and are sold to benefit the library. Audiovisual materials and computer software are never accepted for inclusion in the collection.

The library cannot be responsible for the appraisal of gifts for income tax or other purposes. A receipt is available upon request.

Community Participation

Involvement by the community in the selection process is encouraged. Mechanisms are provided for this purpose, including analysis of pending holds requests and purchase suggestions submitted by library customers. User suggestions for purchase will be evaluated in accordance with the Collection Development Policy.


Public demand for best-selling titles can be extremely great and frequently triggers reorders of those titles. It is the goal of the St. Louis County Library to have enough copies of popular titles to avoid long waiting periods for the public. Additional copies may be purchased according to library guidelines.

Reconsideration of Library Materials

In order to represent the diversity of thought within the community, it is very important that the public library's collection contain materials representing differing points of view on public issues of a controversial nature. The St. Louis County Library does not endorse particular beliefs or views, nor does the selection of an item express or imply an endorsement of the viewpoint expressed by the author. Library materials will not be sequestered, except for the purpose of protecting them from theft or damage.

There may be occasions when a member of the community may be concerned about a particular item in the library's collection. If a library patron wishes the library to reconsider material that is in the collection, a Library Material Comment Form is available at all public services desks. This form must be completed in its entirety and returned to a library staff member, who will forward it to the assistant director of the library. Once the form is received, the assistant director will review the comment, as well as the criteria used in selecting the item, its place in the collection, and reasons for including the item in the collection. The library administration will send a written response in a timely manner.


During the preparation of this document, the following libraries' collection development and materials selection policies were referenced:

Dayton Metro Library
Denver Public Library
Fargo Public Library
Pasadena Public Library
Queens Library
Washoe County Library System

Effective January 22, 2007.

Addendum to Collection Development Policy

(approved by Library Board September 21, 2009.)

A high school collection will be established within the teen collection for 9th to 12th grade level materials. Materials placed in this collection will receive a "High School" label.

To implement this classification system, the Children's Collection Development Specialist will check for reviews in School Library Journal (SLJ) and the Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) as a part of the selection process. Both of these publications indicate recommended age or grade levels for reviewed titles. Since titles are often selected prior to publication, reviews will not always be available in these publications at that time. The titles without an age or grade level assignment will be checked again by the cataloger, once the materials arrive. If age/grade level recommendations still cannot be found for some titles, the book will be sent to the Consideration Committee. This committee will be comprised of the manager of Cataloging, manager and assistant manager of Youth Services, and the children's collection development specialist. If further evaluation is needed, the title will be submitted to administration. All materials recommended for 9th to 12th graders will receive a "High School" label, and a note will be inserted in the bibliographic record. This practice will also be followed if it is determined that a title currently in the collection is eligible for a "High School" label. The cataloger will send out a list to the branches on a monthly basis of titles to receive "High School" labels, and branches will be instructed to label the materials that are currently on the shelf and place holds to trap materials that are in circulation so that they can be labeled when they are returned.

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