Collection Development Policy

Revised April, 2022

Mission statement

The Mercer County Library System (MCLS) recognizes that access to information empowers individuals with knowledge and opportunity. The Library is committed to providing the materials and services that satisfy the educational, informational, recreational, and cultural needs of our diverse community, and strives to encourage a lifelong interest in reading. 

Statement of Purpose 

It is the goal of MCLS to continuously improve and expand the library collection, including electronic content in books, audios, music, periodicals, and videos that reflect the interests of the community. All ages, reading levels, and points of view are considered.

The Mercer County Library System cannot acquire and retain all available materials; it must utilize a policy of selective acquisition and collection maintenance in accordance with our mission.

Collection development is a judgmental, interpretive set of processes applied by professional librarians. These processes require: knowledge of community needs; familiarity with the library system’s collections and appropriate bibliographic tools; a general knowledge of subject literature; and consideration of the library’s financial resources. 

The Library’s collections include materials in a variety of formats, including print, digital and online materials, at many intellectual levels, to serve the educational, recreational and entertainment needs of a wide range of ages, and educational backgrounds, as well as ethnic, racial and cultural groups, lifestyles and points of view. Emphasis is placed on popular materials and general information rather than on scholarly and specialized needs. Staff members assigned to collection development for any library branch shall obtain an accurate profile of the population served in order to recognize and meet its needs. Public demand shall be treated as an indicator of need.

As new formats evolve, these will be considered for inclusion in the collection. Because resources should reflect the changing requirements of our patrons, the collection development policy shall be subject to continuous review.

Purpose of Branch Libraries and the Headquarters Branch

Each branch maintains a current collection of fiction and non-fiction titles that reflects the needs and interests of its community. The collections include adult, young adult and juvenile materials, representative collections of audiovisual materials, basic reference tools, and a selection of popular periodicals. Branch collections are not intended to be all-inclusive in coverage.

The Lawrence Headquarters Branch is an information center supporting the MCLS branches. In addition to being the local library for Lawrence Township, the branch acts as the repository for a large auxiliary collection of educational and recreational materials and materials on New Jersey and Mercer County, holding a selection of resources for all ages, in various media formats. 

Intellectual Freedom and Access

The Mercer County Library System and its staff, and the Mercer County Library Commission believe that the right to read is an important part of the intellectual freedom that is basic to democracy. MCLS recognizes the responsibility to provide materials representing diverse points of view on different topics. Selection is made solely on the merits of the work in relation to the collection as a whole and in relation to the needs of library patrons. The presence of an item in the collection does not indicate endorsement of the item’s content.

Neither an individual, nor group, nor library staff have the right to decide what others may or may not read. There will be no labeling of any item to indicate its point of view or bias. The Library assures free access to its holdings for all patrons, who can select or reject for themselves any item in the collection.

Children and teens are not limited to the Juvenile and Young Adult collections, which are kept separate from other library collections to facilitate use. Responsibility for a child’s reading, listening or viewing of library materials must rest with the parent or guardian, not with library staff.

The Library follows the principles presented in the following documents, which can be found in their entirety within the context of the Mercer County Library System Policies, Attachment B. These include the Rights of Users and Equity of Access statements.

General Collection Development Policies

Selection Criteria

Staff members involved in the development of materials collections select materials to reflect a variety of viewpoints. Selection of digital resources follow the same criteria as print/physical formats. The Library will endeavor to offer as diverse and comprehensive collection as possible, within budgetary and space constraints. Materials purchased for the Library’s collection are evaluated as complete works and not on the basis of any one 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. Similarly, no work will be removed from the collection solely because an individual or group finds it to be objectionable when it is in harmony with this policy statement. The inclusion or non-inclusion of any particular work is based on the considerations described in this policy statement and does not amount to an act of endorsement by the Library of any particular viewpoint or position. In the case of digital subscription services, direct selection of materials is not always available to the Library. The Library recognizes that it is impossible to satisfy every need.

Important selection criteria can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Public demand as expressed in requests for the title. This includes predicted public demand.
  • Artistic merit, scholarship, authority, logical presentation, accuracy, relevancy, timeliness, usefulness, and historical significance.
  • The reputation and qualifications of the author, creator, or publisher of the work.
  • Price, suitability of format for library use, and ease of use.
  • Reviews from professional journals and other reliable review sources indicating quality of the work may be considered.
  • The extent to which the item supplements, expands on, or supports the existing collection, rather than duplicates it. Material should contribute to the MCLS collection as a whole.
  • Relevance to the experiences and contributions of the diverse populations served by MCLS.
  • Cost, availability and impact on the materials budget.
  • Winners and nominees for national and international awards may be considered for acquisition.
  • Items promoted in the media may be in demand by the community and may be considered for acquisition on that basis.
  • The relevance to observed and anticipated community needs and desires is a consideration. Professional staff determine the needs of their community using requests, census statistics, interlibrary loan requests and other resources.
  • Local authorship/subject matter; this consideration, in some cases, overrides literary and artistic considerations.
  • Licensing and system requirements (hardware, software, networking and storage.)
  • Long term availability and accessibility.
  • Assessment of content, quality and cost, as compared to other available formats.
  • MCLS does not purchase textbooks in order to supply students with textbooks required for academic courses. Textbooks may be purchased if they provide information that cannot be found in other resources and because that information will meet an anticipated need in the collection as a whole.
  • An item need not meet all criteria to be selected.

World Language Materials

The Mercer County Library System recognizes the need to collect materials in world languages to meet their communities’ educational and recreational needs. Professional staff determine the needs of their community using requests, census statistics, interlibrary loan requests and other resources. The information gathered is used to determine the size and scope of the collection. Availability of world language materials and bibliographic information may impact the development of the collection.

The Library’s collection also includes materials that aid in learning a second language. MCLS may purchase materials in a variety of formats, including print, DVD, electronic resources, periodicals, newspapers and audio.

World Language and English as a Second Language (ESL) materials will be purchased using the same selection criteria as other materials.

Local Authors and Self-Published Materials

The Mercer County Library System will consider local authors and self-published materials either in print or e-content, for inclusion in the Library collection. The principles which guide the selection of this material are fundamentally the same as those for other library materials. To support and encourage local (Mercer County) authors, special consideration will be given to their works. Books with unique local content may also be considered. Books donated by authors, or requests from authors to purchase their works, will be considered for inclusion into the library collection if the material meets the selection criteria found in this policy and have the appropriate bibliographic information available. Donated self-published materials that are not added to the collection are subject to the guidelines for donated materials.

Donations and Gifts 

The Mercer County Library System periodically accepts donations of books and media materials in good condition from the public, reserving the right to reject a donated item for any reason. All donations become the sole property of the Mercer County Library System. The Library is under no obligation to add a donated item to the collection or to notify the donor of the disposition of that item. The Library reserves the right to decide the best means of dispersing donated materials and equipment, whether by adding to the collection, selling at a book sale, or in any other way. While MCLS will provide written acknowledgement of all donations, the Library does not appraise books and materials, and no dollar value will be assigned to any donated item. Please see the policy on Donated Materials for further details.

Withdrawals from Collection 

Systematic removal of materials (known as weeding), which are no longer useful, is essential to maintaining overall collection quality. Professional staff members with collection evaluation responsibility shall continuously evaluate materials for accuracy, currency, condition and user appeal. The staff will use a variety of tools, such as: collection management software and or the CREW evaluation method developed by Joseph P. Segal (https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/pubs/crew/index.html) to make weeding decisions. Materials withdrawn from the Mercer County Library System will be disposed of in a manner consistent with their quality and condition and at the discretion of the Library in accordance with New Jersey State Procurement Laws.

In all collections, the following factors shall be considered during the weeding process: 

  • Declining or Nonexistent Use Patterns: Headquarters’ items which have not circulated for five years and Branch items which have not circulated for one to three years shall be considered for withdrawal. 
  • Physical condition: Damaged materials shall be discarded unless their content is very significant and they cannot be replaced. 
  • Last Copy: The Headquarters’ Library shall be repository for last copies in the system, and unique but little-used materials.
  • Copyright Date: Although most classics and valuable editions will be retained, dated materials will be discarded and replaced with more current materials, when they are available. 
  • Subject matter is no longer timely, accurate or relevant.
  • Enduring value.
  • Local interest or specific community relevance.
  • Availability elsewhere, including other libraries or online resources.
  • In general, duplicate copies in excess of two, or former “bestsellers” or “top of the charts” titles, shall be discarded after the popularity of these items has waned.

Children and Young Adult

The Mercer County Library System’s youth collections include print, audiovisual and digital materials to satisfy and stimulate the informational, educational, and recreational needs of children and young adults, ages birth through 12th grade. Young Adult collections are maintained in all branches to meet the needs of those ages 12 and up and to encourage the continued enjoyment of reading. Youth Services librarians select materials for children and young adult collections to reflect a variety of viewpoints using fundamentally the same processes as those for adult materials. These can include, but are not limited to: favorable reviews in reliable journals or standard bibliographic tools. Selections are also based on reader demand and interest, age appropriateness, reading level, interest level, treatment of the subject for the age of the intended audience, and suggestions from parents, guardians, teachers and adults working with children. The Library does not assume that all children and young adult material will be suitable for every individual. Responsibility for overseeing a child’s reading choices rests with parents and/or legal guardians and not library staff. The Library makes its collections available to all.

New Jersey Collection

The New Jersey Collection includes areas of nonfiction relating to the state and Mercer County. Fiction with a predominantly New Jersey setting will be considered for purchase and inclusion. The principles which guide the selection of materials for the New Jersey Collection are fundamentally the same as those for adult materials. Weeding of this collection, however, will be in general less rigorous due to the historical value of these items.

Public Inquiries Concerning Book Collections 

Requests and recommendations by Library patrons are welcome. Mercer County Library System cardholders may request that a particular item be considered for purchase. It is the Library’s intention that suggestions for purchase be used to help the Library in developing collections that serve the interests and needs of the community. Any request for a specific title will be given consideration, following the selection criteria outlined in this policy. Items are not automatically purchased and added to the collection. The Library is committed to the encouragement and protection of the free flow of information and ideas, and to the right of free access to information for all individuals.

Library materials are intended for a heterogeneous population with various tastes and needs. The Library collection will include works that reflect differing points of view, represent varying lifestyles or are controversial in nature. It is likely that individual library patrons will find materials in the Library’s collections that conflict with their personal opinions, perspectives, values, tastes and world views. The choice of materials by users is an individual matter. Responsibility for the reading, listening, and viewing choices of children and young adults rests with their parents or legal guardians.

Requests for Reevaluation 

Any resident library cardholder may request that the library review a selection for withdrawal decision. Those who wish reconsideration of a specific title must fully complete the attached Patron’s Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form. The individual making the request must be a resident of the Mercer County Library System’s borrowing area and a library cardholder. The request will then be referred to a Materials Reevaluation Committee, consisting of two professional librarians and a Library Commission Member. 

The Commission Member serving on the Materials Reevaluation Committee will be appointed at the reorganization meeting by the Commission President and serve for one year. Alphabetical rosters of Adult Services Librarians and Youth Services Librarians will be maintained. The librarians serving on the Reevaluation Committee will be selected from these lists on a rotating basis. 

If the material in question is intended for use by children or young adults, then one Committee Member will be selected from the Youth Services roster. If it is an adult item two librarians will be selected from the Adult Services Librarians roster. The individual requesting the reconsideration is not required to participate and not included in this committee process.

Items will be evaluated according to the selection criteria outlined in the Collection Development Policy and principles of the American Library Association statements mentioned above. The individual requesting reconsideration will be sent a written response to their request, copied to Mercer County Library Administration and the Library Commission. 

The item in question will not be removed from circulation during the reconsideration process.

Appeal of Reevaluation Committee Decision 

If the individual requesting reevaluation of an item is not satisfied with the decision of the Reevaluation Committee, they may appeal the decision by forwarding a letter to the Chair of the Mercer County Library Commission stating the basis of the appeal, enclosing a copy of the original Request for Reconsideration form, and a copy of the reevaluation committee’s report. A reevaluation committee appeal will appear as a separate agenda item within the next two Commission Meetings. The Commission will decide based on the collection development policy, public comment heard at the Commission Meeting at which the individual making the appeal may choose to present, and such other resources as the Commission may wish to consult. The findings and decision of the Commission will be published as part of the minutes of the meeting at which the appeal was heard. 

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