Dubuque County Library District

Collection Development Policy

Collection Development Policy


A written Materials Selection Policy aids staff of the Dubuque County Library District in selecting and acquiring a useful, well-rounded collection to meets the needs of residents of the Library’s service area and also assists the public in understanding how materials are chosen for the collections. A policy statement also helps the Library Board of Trustees determine whether the director and staff are doing an acceptable job of building the Library’s collections.


Specialists on Library staff are involved in the selection process with the final responsibility for selection resting with the Director who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Library Board.


The Library subscribes to the principles contained in the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations, and the Freedom to Read Statement (see Appendices) These documents have been affirmed by the Library Board and are considered part of the Library’s policies.

Inclusion of materials in the collection does not constitute endorsement of their contents. The Library recognizes that any given item may offend some patrons. However, because the Library follows accepted principles of intellectual freedom, it will not remove specific titles solely because individuals or groups may find them objectionable.

Selection of books and/or materials shall be made on the basis of the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the communities served. Materials will not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. Items considered for selection are evaluated as a whole, not on the basis of a particular section or sections.

Materials may be available in a variety of formats. Factors governing the choice of format include anticipated use, ease of access, and availability of technology, if applicable.

Price, accuracy and timeliness of information are other factors influencing selection. The Library does not typically purchase out-of-print material for the collection, and no attempt is made to purchase all the works by particular authors. Borrowing materials from other libraries through interlibrary loan is another option available to customers for older or unique materials.

The Library welcomes suggestions from the public for materials to purchase. Such requests are typically fulfilled, assuming the desired item meets general collection development criteria, as set out below.


Library materials are selected according to a variety of criteria in addition to demand or need. As a general rule, the library will acquire only works of interest to the layperson. The library does not support educational curricula through the purchase of textbooks. However, textbooks may be added to the collection if they provide the best, or only, sources of information on a subject, or if they complement an existing area with another perspective.

Electronic resources are increasingly important additions to the library collection. Selection of databases, e-books, and other online resources will follow the same criteria as all other materials.


  • suitability of form for library use
  • suitability of subject and style for intended audience
  • present and potential relevance to community needs
  • appropriateness of medium to content
  • insight into human and social conditions
  • importance as a document of the times
  • relation to existing collection and other material on subject
  • reputation and/or significance of author
  • popularity of the subject matter
  • attention of critics, reviewers, and public
  • currency

For works of nonfiction

  • current interest
  • scope and authority of subject matter
  • comprehensiveness and depth of treatment
  • objectivity
  • accuracy and logic of presentation
  • clarity of style
  • representation of challenging, or minority, point of view
  • scarcity of information in subject field

For works of fiction

  • popular demand
  • representation of important movement, genre, trend, or national culture
  • vitality and originality
  • artistic presentation
  • sustained interest
  • effective characterization and/or a realistic portrayal of life
  • authenticity of historical or social setting
  • novels in a series

Periodicals are added to the collection on the basis of interest or need. Prime consideration is given to those that are of broad, popular interest, are included in standard indexes, or that fill a particular void in the library’s collection.

Newspapers are an important source of information. The library will provide access to local papers, as well as newspapers from larger, nearby cities and selected national newspapers. The library also subscribes to America’s Newspapers which is an online resource for the Telegraph Herald and newspapers across the nation.

Gifts and Donations

The Dubuque County Library welcomes donations to enhance the collections. Donated books and audiovisual items become the property of the Library. All donations to the Library are accepted on the condition that they may be retained and added to the collections or disposed of at its sole discretion, in accordance with this policy. In the case of monetary donations given to purchase specific materials, subject suggestions are accepted from the donor, but will adhere to this policy.

Withdrawing Materials

Withdrawing materials from the collection is an ongoing process and a standard component of collection development. Materials that are worn, damaged, outdated, duplicated, or no longer used may be removed from the collection. Some items will be replaced with newer editions, while some will not be. Withdrawn materials are typically resold on the Library’s behalf or recycled.

Request for Reconsideration

Should a citizen of the Library’s service area object to the presence or absence of materials, they are requested to arrange a meeting with the Library Director to discuss their concern. If not willing or able to do so, or if they find the results of the meeting unsatisfactory, they may file a “Request for Reconsideration” form which is available at all branches.

After receipt of a “Request for Reconsideration” form, a committee will be formed consisting of a least two board members, the director, and one library professional whose job description includes collection development.

The committee will read or view the resource in question in its entirety, consider the request, and send a retention recommendation to the Library Board of Trustees.

The Library Board of Trustees will approve or reject the committee’s recommendation at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.

The decision of the Library Board of Trustees is final.

The director will respond, in writing, to the library customer explaining the board’s decision.

Adopted: 2/00

Reviewed: 5/00, 3/03/10/05, 4/09

Revised 1/12, 9/13, 2/24/16, 11/19/19

Appendix 1

The Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information. (Adopted by the American Library Associaiton Jan. 29, 2019.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

 A history of the Library Bill of Rights is found in the latest edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Although the Articles of the Library Bill of Rights are unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries, questions do arise concerning application of these principles to specific library practices. See the documents designated by the Intellectual Freedom Committee as Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights.

Appendix 2

Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights

Although the Articles of the Library Bill of Rights are unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries, questions do arise concerning application of these principles to specific library practices.

Following are those documents designated by the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee as Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights and background statements detailing the philosophy and history of each. For convenience and easy reference, the documents are presented in alphabetical order. These documents are policies of the American Library Association, having been adopted by the ALA Council.

Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials: Library collections of nonprint materials raise a number of intellectual freedom issues, especially regarding minors. Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.”

Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks: Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedom of speech and the corollary right to receive information. Libraries and librarians protect and promote these rights by selecting, producing, providing access to, identifying, retrieving, organizing, providing instruction in the use of, and preserving recorded expression regardless of the format or technology.

Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors (previously named Free Access to Libraries for Minors): Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.

Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, or Sexual Orientation: The American Library Association stringently and unequivocally maintains that libraries and librarians have an obligation to resist efforts that systematically exclude materials dealing with any subject matter, including sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Access to Resources and Services in the School Library Media Program: The school library media program plays a unique role in promoting intellectual freedom. It serves as a point of voluntary access to information and ideas and as a learning laboratory for students as they acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed in a pluralistic society. Although the educational level and program of the school necessarily shapes the resources and services of a school library media program, the principles of the Library Bill of Rights apply equally to all libraries, including school library media programs.

Challenged Resources: The American Library Association declares as a matter of firm principle that it is the responsibility of every library to have a clearly defined materials selection policy in written form that reflects the Library Bill of Rights, and that is approved by the appropriate governing authority.

Diversity in Collection Development: Intellectual freedom, the essence of equitable library services, provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored. Toleration is meaningless without tolerance for what some may consider detestable. Librarians cannot justly permit their own preferences to limit their degree of tolerance in collection development, because freedom is indivisible.

Economic Barriers to Information Access: A democracy presupposes an informed citizenry. The First Amendment mandates the right of all persons to free expression, and the corollary right to receive the constitutionally protected expression of others. The publicly supported library provides free, equal, and equitable access to information for all people of the community the library serves. While the roles, goals and objectives of publicly supported libraries may differ, they share this common mission.

Evaluating Library Collections: The continuous review of library materials is necessary as a means of maintaining an active library collection of current interest to users. In the process, materials may be added and physically deteriorated or obsolete materials may be replaced or removed in accordance with the collection maintenance policy of a given library and the needs of the community it serves. Continued evaluation is closely related to the goals and responsibilities of all libraries and is a valuable tool of collection development. This procedure is not to be used as a convenient means to remove materials presumed to be controversial or disapproved of by segments of the community.

Exhibit Spaces and Bulletin Boards: Libraries often provide exhibit spaces and bulletin boards. The uses made of these spaces should conform to the Library Bill of Rights: Article I states, “Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” Article II states, “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Article VI maintains that exhibit space should be made available “on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.”

Expurgation of Library Materials: Expurgation of Library Materials: Expurgating library materials is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights. Expurgation as defined by this interpretation includes any deletion, excision, alteration, editing, or obliteration of any part(s) of books or other library resources by the library, its agent, or its parent institution (if any).

Importance of Education to Intellectual Freedom: Through education programming and instruction in information skills, libraries empower individuals to explore ideas, access, and evaluate information, draw meaning from information presented in a variety of formats, develop valid conclusions, and express new ideas. Such education facilitates intellectual access to information and offers a path to intellectual freedom.

Internet Filtering: In the span of a single generation the Internet has revolutionized the basic functions and operations of libraries and schools and expanded exponentially both the opportunities and challenges these institutions face in serving their users. During this time many schools and libraries in the United States have installed content filters on their Internet access. They have done so for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the requirement to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in order to be eligible to receive federal funding or discounts through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Universal Service discount program (E-rate), or to comply with state filtering requirements that may also be tied to state funding. Their rationale for filtering is that it is better to have filtered access than no access.

Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: A strong intellectual freedom perspective is critical to the development of academic library collections and services that dispassionately meet the education and research needs of a college or university community. The purpose of this statement is to outline how and where intellectual freedom principles fit into an academic library setting, thereby raising consciousness of the intellectual freedom context within which academic librarians work.

Labeling Systems: The American Library Association affirms the rights of individuals to form their own opinions about resources they choose to read, view, listen to, or otherwise access.  Libraries do not advocate the ideas found in their collections or in resources accessible through the library. The presence of books and other resources in a library does not indicate endorsement of their contents by the library. Likewise, providing access to digital information does not indicate endorsement or approval of that information by the library. Labeling systems present distinct challenges to these intellectual freedom principles.

Minors and Internet Activity: The digital environment offers opportunities both for accessing information created by others and for creating and sharing new information. The rights of minors to retrieve, interact with, and create information posted on the Internet in schools and libraries are extensions of their First Amendment rights.

Library-Initiated Programs as a Resource: Library-initiated programs support the mission of the library by providing users with additional opportunities for information, education, and recreation.

Meeting Rooms: Many libraries provide meeting rooms for individuals and groups as part of a program of service. Article VI of the Library Bill of Rights states that such facilities should be made available to the public served by the given library “on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.”

Prisoners Right to Read: The American Library Association asserts a compelling public interest in the preservation of intellectual freedom for individuals of any age held in jails, prisons, detention facilities, juvenile facilities, immigration facilities, prison work camps and segregated units within any facility.

Privacy: Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. See also Questions and Answers on Privacy and Confidentiality.

Rating Systems: Libraries, no matter their size, contain an enormous wealth of viewpoints and are responsible for making those viewpoints available to all. However, libraries do not advocate or endorse the content found in their collections or in resources made accessible through the library. Rating systems appearing in library public access catalogs or resource discovery tools present distinct challenges to these intellectual freedom principles.

Restricted Access to Library Materials: Libraries are a traditional forum for the open exchange of information. Attempts to restrict access to library materials violate the basic tenets of the Library Bill of Rights.

Services to People with Disabilities (New as of the 2009 Midwinter Meeting in Denver, CO): ALA recognizes that persons with disabilities are a large and often neglected part of society.  In addition to many personal challenges, some persons with disabilities face economic inequity, illiteracy, cultural isolation, and discrimination in education, employment, and the broad range of societal activities.  The library plays a catalytic role in their lives by facilitating their full participation in society.

The Universal Right to Free Expression: Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and association, and the corollary right to receive information.

User-Generated Content in Library Discovery Systems: Libraries offer a variety of discovery systems to provide access to the resources in their collections.  Such systems can include online public access catalogs (OPAC), library discovery products, institutional repositories, and archival systems. With the widespread use of library technology that incorporates social media components, intelligent objects, and knowledge-sharing tools comes the ability of libraries to provide greater opportunities for patron engagement in those discovery systems through user-generated content.  These features may include the ability of users to contribute commentary such as reviews, simple point-and-click rating systems (e.g. one star to five stars), or to engage in extensive discussions or other social interactions. This kind of content could transform authoritative files, alter information architecture, and change the flow of information within the library discovery system.

User-Initiated Exhibits, Displays, and Bulletin Boards: Libraries may offer spaces for exhibits, displays, and bulletin boards in physical or digital formats as a benefit for their communities. The use of these spaces should conform to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. Amended 2019

Visual and Performing Arts in Libraries: Visual images and performances in the library should not be restricted based on content. Librarians and library staff should be proactive in seeking out a wide variety of representational and abstract artwork and performance art, with limitations or parameters set only with respect to space, installation, fiscal, and technical constraints. Adopted 2018

[PDF of Library Bill of Rights with complete interpretations]

Appendix 3

The Freedom to Read Statement of the American Library Association

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be “protected” against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.

These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.

Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.

Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.

We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate, in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of offerings.

The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

We therefore affirm these propositions:

  1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.  Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.
  2. Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.  Publishers and librarians serve the educational process by helping to make available knowledge and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They do not foster education by imposing as mentors the patterns of their own thought. The people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or government or church. It is wrong that what one can read should be confined to what another thinks proper.
  3. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.  No art or literature can flourish if it is to be measured by the political views or private lives of its creators. No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.
  4. There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.  To some, much of modern expression is shocking. But is not much of life itself shocking? We cut off literature at the source if we prevent writers from dealing with the stuff of life. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare the young to meet the diversity of experiences in life to which they will be exposed, as they have a responsibility to help them learn to think critically for themselves. These are affirmative responsibilities, not to be discharged simply by preventing them from reading works for which they are not yet prepared. In these matters values differ, and values cannot be legislated; nor can machinery be devised that will suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.
  5. It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.  The ideal of labeling presupposes the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by authority what is good or bad for others. It presupposes that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. But Americans do not need others to do their thinking for them.
  6. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.  It is inevitable in the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral, or the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to determine for themselves what they wish to read, and each group is free to determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further, democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or self-censorship.
  7. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a “bad” book is a good one, the answer to a “bad” idea is a good one.  The freedom to read is of little consequence when the reader cannot obtain matter fit for that reader’s purpose. What is needed is not only the absence of restraint, but the positive provision of opportunity for the people to read the best that has been thought and said. Books are the major channel by which the intellectual inheritance is handed down, and the principal means of its testing and growth. The defense of the freedom to read requires of all publishers and librarians the utmost of their faculties, and deserves of all Americans the fullest of their support.

We state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.


This statement was originally issued in May of 1953 by the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, which in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute to become the Association of American Publishers.

Adopted June 25, 1953, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee; amended January 28, 1972; January 16, 1991; July 12, 2000; June 30, 2004.

A Joint Statement by:

American Library Association
Association of American Publishers

Subsequently endorsed by:

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
The Association of American University Presses, Inc.
The Children’s Book Council
Freedom to Read Foundation
National Association of College Stores
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Council of Teachers of English
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

Adopted by the Board of Trustees 24 February, 2016

Revised Nov. 19, 2019

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