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Collection Development Policy

(Approved by the Library Board January 22, 2007; Amended April 19, 2009 and September 22, 2009; Revised October 19, 2015; November 19, 2018; February 6, 2023)


Collection Development is the ongoing process of assessing the materials available for purchase, subscription or licensing and making decisions about their inclusion and retention within the Library. Collection Development supports the priorities of the Library's strategic plan and includes the selection and deselection of Library materials. Materials may be dropped or added to the collection as community needs dictate. Collection Development also facilitates access to electronic resources and original electronic content.

Philosophy and Scope of the Collection

St. Louis County Library serves a large population that is diverse in age, race, ethnicity, culture, education, socioeconomic level and lifestyle. Within the constraints of its budget, the Library selects a diverse range of materials in a variety of formats to support the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the population it serves. The Library provides a general collection of circulating materials embracing broad areas of knowledge and literary and cultural genres. Included are works of enduring value and timely materials on current issues. Collections are reviewed and revised on an ongoing basis to meet contemporary needs.
Patron use is the most powerful influence on the Library's collection. Serious consideration is given to purchasing patron-requested materials when these requests meet collection objectives. In addition to purchase requests, circulation and holds levels are all closely monitored, triggering the purchase of new items and additional copies of high demand titles. In addition to patron demand, selections are made to provide depth and diversity of viewpoint to the existing collection.

Inherent in the collection development philosophy is an appreciation for each patron of the St. Louis County Library, and recognition of the diversity of the community served. The Library upholds the rights of each individual to privately read, listen to, and view the full range of published thought and ideas. All materials selected under this policy are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Library subscribes to the principles embodied in the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations, Freedom to Read Statement and Freedom to View Statement adopted by the American Library Association. Collection development and management decisions are based on the merit of the work as it relates to the Library's mission and its ability to meet the needs and interests of the community. Decisions are not based on any anticipated approval or disapproval of the material. Only parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to guide and direct the reading, listening, and viewing choices of their own minor children. The Library does not stand in the place of parents (in loco parentis).

Selection Criteria

Ultimate responsibility for the selection of materials lies with the Library Director within the framework of the policy set by the Board of Trustees. Direct selection of Library materials is delegated to employees qualified for this duty by education, training, interest and job classification.

All St. Louis County Library materials are part of one collection, which is physically distributed among the branches and bookmobiles or accessible electronically via the Library's website. Selections are made to provide a broad, popular, and relevant collection, while being good stewards of the community's tax dollars. Material selection is based on awareness of community interests and concerns, national and international issues and events, publishing trends, societal trends, and the professional judgment of selectors regarding the material's value to the Library's collection. Selection of materials by the Library does not constitute endorsement of the material's content or the views expressed. The Library participates in resource sharing with other institutions through its Interlibrary Loan service, reciprocal borrowing agreements, and access to Internet resources in order to fulfill requests for materials that are beyond the scope of the Collection Development policy.

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. No materials that meet St. Louis County Library selection criteria will be excluded because of the origin, background or views of those contributing to its creation. Factors considered when adding specific material to the Library collection include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Current and potential relevance to community needs
  • Local demand, interest, or significance
  • Suitability of subject and style for intended audience
  • Reviews in professionally recognized sources
  • Timeliness and/or significance of the subject
  • Cost, availability and impact on materials budget
  • Contribution to diversity, depth, or breadth of collection
  • Technical quality
  • Suitability of format for Library circulation and use
  • Authority and competence of the author and/or reputation and standing of the publisher
  • Objectivity
  • Availability of information in other formats
  • Support of the Library's mission

Collection Management

The Library's collection is a living, changing entity. Ongoing evaluation of materials is necessary in order to maintain a current, accurate and appealing collection. As items are added, others are reviewed for their ongoing value and sometimes removed from the collection. This process improves the accessibility of remaining materials, enhances the appearance of the collection, and helps improve the overall circulation of materials. Great care is taken to retain or replace items that have enduring value to the community. Decisions are influenced by patterns of use, the capacity of each location and the holdings of other libraries that may specialize in a given subject matter. Items removed from the collection cannot be reserved. Discarded materials become surplus property and may be sold by the Library or discarded at the Library's discretion.

The Library collection is organized, marked, and maintained to help people find the materials they want. The Library does not support the labeling, sequestering, or alteration of materials because of controversy surrounding the author or viewpoint on the subject matter.

The procedures for selection and designation of materials for various parts of the collection, e.g. Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Teen Materials (including High School Collection) and Children's Material, shall be conducted by Library employees consistent with the overall guidance set forth in this Policy. Such procedures shall be approved by the Library Director, and made available to the public.

Reconsideration of Library Materials

There may be occasions when a patron is concerned about a particular title in the Library's collection. If a patron wishes the Library to reconsider the inclusion or placement of a particular title, a Materials Reconsideration Form is available at all Library locations.  Materials Reconsideration Forms will only be accepted and reviewed when submitted by a resident located within the St. Louis County Library District service area, an owner of property within the District, or by a St. Louis County Library cardholder that resides within the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area. This form must be completed in its entirety and returned to a Library employee, who will forward it to the Deputy Director. Members of the Materials Review Committee will review the patron comments, reviews of the title, the criteria used in selecting the item, and reasons for including it in the collection. A written response to the patron will be sent in a timely manner.

Gifts and Donations

The 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.

Books, magazines and AV material donated to any Branch 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. The Library does not evaluate or appraise gift materials for tax or other purposes.

Scope of Special Collections

The Library maintains several collections that are beyond the scope of the general circulating collection.  These special collections, including History & Genealogy, Reference, and digital access to Government Documents, are held in specific locations, which include the facilities to support them. 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.

History & Genealogy Collection

The History & Genealogy collection was established in 1998 to address the local history and genealogical research needs of patrons. This collection consists of print, microform, and online resources to support research pertaining to St. Louis and the surrounding area; Missouri; states east of the Mississippi, particularly those covering the migration trails into Missouri; colonial United Sates and immigration from other countries.

The History & Genealogy Department is home to several specific collections including:

•    The National Genealogical Society Collection
•    The St. Louis Genealogical Society Collection
•    The Julius K. Hunter and Friends African American Research Collection
•    The Lewis Bunker Rohrbach Collection

Reference Collection

The reference collection is a non-circulating collection selected for accuracy, authority and depth of coverage. The reference collection comprises print materials and 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.

Electronic Resources

The St. Louis County Library recognizes a rapidly growing global body of electronic information. Furthermore, the library understands the importance of providing access to a variety of educational and entertainment resources. Due to the differences in licensing and access models currently available, the library follows the general guidelines for all services where selection is an option, and simply provides access for others. Connection with electronic information, services and networks provides access and information transfer rather than selecting and acquiring materials in the traditional sense. The Library selects electronic services and databases licensed for system-wide access, based on community needs as determined by qualified Library professionals. Remote electronic access to digital resources may be limited by licensing constraints.

Government Documents

St. Louis County Library acts as a digital depository in the Federal Depository Library Program. The government documents collection exists in digital format only. Access to these digital resources provides information about the past and present operation and activities of the United States Government and public access to authoritative information from government sources.  Some public viewing documents, issued by federal, state, or local bodies, are collected in a physical format and housed at specific St. Louis County Library locations that best serve the intended audience.