Collection Development Policy

Collection Development Policy

In accordance with our mission statement “Creatively serving the community with diverse resources and learning opportunities,” the library aims to select and maintain a collection that will provide all community residents with a broad range of materials in all formats to aid them in the pursuit of education, information, research, pleasure, and the creative use of leisure time.

The volume of publishing and the limitations of financial resources and available space mandate that the library will have a policy to guide the development and maintenance of a balanced collection that meets the needs and interests of the residents we serve.   The collection will include both works of current interest and those of lasting value.  This policy will guide the library staff in the selection and further handling of library materials and may also be used to acquaint the general public with the underlying principles guiding the formation of library collections.

This Library embraces the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and the Freedom to View Statement. The texts of these statements are included as appendices to this policy and are interpreted to include all library materials regardless of format.


Responsibility for materials selection rests with the Library Director, operating within the framework of this policy as adopted by the Board of Trustees.  The Director may delegate selection responsibility to members of the library staff.

Selection Criteria

All materials added to the collection, purchased or donated, will be selected in accordance with one or more of the following considerations:

Individual merit of each item
Topic of current interest to patrons (popular appeal/demand)
Long term intellectual and/or educational value of the item
Relationship of the work to other materials in the collection
  --variety and balance of viewpoints and subjects
Suitability of the material for the residents of our community
Cost and budget constraints
Usefulness of the given format

Reviews and professional selection aids will be used as sources of information about materials under consideration for purchase.  Examples include (but are not limited to) Public Library Catalog, Fiction Catalog, Children’s Catalog, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, “New York Times Book Review,”  “Chicago Tribune Book Review.”  Interviews on public media and catalogs and press releases from publishers may also be considered. 

Purchase requests from patrons will be considered, but final purchase decisions will be determined by this policy.  If a requested item is not selected for purchase, every attempt will be made to borrow the material through interlibrary loan so that the patron will have the use of it.

The library recognizes that some materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some patrons.  The choice of library materials by users is an individual matter.  Selections will be made on the merits of each work as it relates to the totality of the library’s collection and not on the basis of any assumed approval or disapproval. 

An attempt will be made to represent differing viewpoints, values, philosophies, cultures, and religions whenever possible.  Material which is biased or which represents only one point of view may be selected to provide alternatives to other materials.  Library materials will not be marked or identified to show approval or disapproval of the contents, and no items will be sequestered except for the express purpose of protecting them from damage or theft.

Responsibility for the use of the library’s collection by children ages seventeen and under rests with their parents and legal guardians.  Selection of adult library materials shall not be inhibited by the possibility that such items may come into the possession of minors.   The library will not act as judge of what materials a child is mature enough to borrow. 

Textbooks are primarily the responsibility of schools and are only occasionally added to the collection to supply information not available in other formats.

In addition to materials for the general public, materials will also be selected to meet the needs of the visually impaired, adult beginning readers, and those for whom reading may be difficult.  Materials that assist businesses, professional and governmental organizations will be purchased as need for such items can be documented.   Documents relating to city and township government will be housed and made available for those residents who wish to use them.

New formats will be considered for the collection when evidence from local requests and from the press suggests that a significant portion of the community has the necessary technology to make use of the new format.  Availability of items in the new format, cost per item, and the library’s ability to acquire and handle the new materials will also be factors in determining when a new format will be added.  Similar considerations will influence the decision to delete a format from the library’s collection.

When there are more than six reserves on a specific title, an additional copy of that title will be purchased.  In subject areas of high interest, the library would prefer to buy several different titles representing a broad range of viewpoints on the subject rather than buying multiple copies of one title.

Local History

The local history collection at the library contains material on the history, description, and development of St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Stevensville and the area surrounding these communities, focusing next on Berrien County as a whole and then the Southwest Michigan region and the state of Michigan. 

Works by or about Michigan residents with limited relevance to Berrien County and general Michigan history will be evaluated individually.  Only those works that add appreciably to the knowledge of Michigan and the relationship of our region to the state will be added to the general collection.

Acceptable materials include but are not limited to yearbooks, postcards, identifiable photographs, and other items of historical significance in hard copy or digital format.

Materials not accepted are restricted collections, undated and unidentified photographs of people, hard copy of newspapers already available in microform, or books by local authors that are outside the scope of the collection development policy.

The general collection houses works of some Michigan and local authors.  Works of local imprint are added to either the general collection or the local history collection when they contribute directly to the social and cultural history of the region.

Genealogy and Family History

The library will acquire genealogical material relating to Berrien County.  The library will attempt to include indexes to births, deaths, marriages, wills and land records, and when possible, indexes and compilations of records for surrounding counties.  Donations of family histories are accepted if the ancestors or descendants  had ties with Berrien County.

The library will include basic and current genealogical research guides, materials for states that had significant migrations to our area, and information about the predominant countries of origin of the immigrants who settled our area.

The library purchases census microfilm for Berrien County as it becomes available.

The library accepts census indexes for surrounding counties and states and when possible may purchase censuses for years and localities for which significant local demand can be documented.

Gifts and Donations of Materials

The library encourages and appreciates gifts and donations, and retains unconditional ownership of all gifts.  The library makes the final decision on the use or other disposition of gifted materials.  The library reserves the right to decide the conditions of display, housing, and access to donated materials.  Donations not added to the library collection may be given to the Friends of the Library for fund-raising.

By law, the library is not allowed to appraise the value of donated materials, though it can and will provide an acknowledgment of receipt of the items.


Materials that fit the selection criteria may be purchased with donated funds and designated as memorials or honorariums.  It is best to consult with the Library Director before purchasing a specific book as a memorial so that criteria for placing the title into the collection can be determined beforehand.  An appropriate bookplate will be included in such gifts identifying both the donor and the purpose of the donation.

Challenged Materials

Members of the community concerned with specific materials in the collection should first discuss the material with the Director.  If a satisfactory resolution is not reached, the patron may complete a “Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials” form.

Upon receipt of a completed Reconsideration form, the Director will ask library staff for background information as to the criteria used in ordering the item in question, its relevance to the collection, and reasons for having the material in the collection.

The Director will study the information provided by the staff and respond, in writing, to the person who initiated the request for reconsideration.

If the person initiating the request is not satisfied with the Director’s decision, he or she may appeal the decision to the Board of Trustees.  Any person wishing to make such an appeal should notify the Director of his or her intent, so that the subject can be placed on the agenda of the next library board meeting.

Collection Maintenance

The library strives to maintain a collection that is current, attractive, and useful in meeting the needs of the community.  Weeding is the responsibility of the Library Director and is expressly authorized by the Board of Trustees.  Systematic weeding and replacement of the library’s materials will be done using the CREW method.  Weeding helps the staff evaluate the collection by identifying areas or titles where additional materials are needed, older editions that need to be updated, and subjects, titles, or authors that are no longer of interest to the community.  If library staff is uncertain about a title to be withdrawn, standard bibliographic tools and/or subject experts will be consulted to determine if the title has historical or literary value. Lost materials will be withdrawn from the collection so that the database accurately reflects the materials that are currently available.   Materials that are worn out from heavy use will be withdrawn, and if the information contained in them is still useful and relevant according to the criteria of this policy, a replacement copy or a newer edition of the item will be purchased.


Approved April 16, 1991; Revised January 16, 2004