Materials Selection Policy

The primary goal of the Mecklenburg County Public Library is to guarantee to people of the community free and easy access to recorded information within the limitations of space and budget.
The responsibility of the library is to satisfy the diverse reading needs and interests of the residents of the community through the selection, acquisition, organization and preservation of library materials and to provide skilled guidance in their use. The library is directed in this process by the following objectives:
To facilitate continuing education, both formal and informal;
To supply sources of information in all fields of knowledge;
To provide practical and vocational information that will improve occupational capabilities;
To meet the basic informational needs of the community;
To encourage the development of reading skills;
To encourage informed discussion of contemporary problems by providing materials on different or innovative cultures, experiences and thinking;
To stimulate thoughtful participation in the life of the family, the community, the country and the world;
To support the educational, civic and cultural activities of groups and organizations;
To nourish intellectual, aesthetic, creative and spiritual growth;
To promote the use of books and other library materials for recreation and enjoyment;
To support individuals in the community who contribute to the increase of knowledge;
To encourage maximum use of the collection by the greatest number of persons;
To support the democratic process by providing materials for the education and enlightenment of the community.
While formulating or revising these objectives, the library is guided by professional standards. The Mecklenburg County Public Library consciously supports and is supported by the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statements which affirm that free and convenient access to ideas, information, and the creative experience is of vital importance to every citizen today.

“Selection” refers to the decision that must be made to add material to the collection or to retain material already in the collection.
All staff members and the general public may recommend materials for consideration. The ultimate responsibility for materials selection, as for all library activities, rests with the library director, who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Board of Trustees.

It should be remembered that freedom of speech and freedom of the press, with certain exceptions defined by law, are a part of our national heritage and are accepted and defended by the courts. As an agency supported by public funds, the public library must heed these recognized principles of custom and law. The collection should contain opposing views on controversial topics of interest to the citizens and should represent the best possible balance between an honest presentation of both sides of public questions. No book or other item should be sequestered, except for the purpose of protecting it from injury or theft.

To build collections of merit and significance, materials must be measured by objective guidelines. All acquisitions, whether purchased or donated, are considered in terms of the standards listed below. An item need not meet all of the criteria in order to be acceptable.
Materials are evaluated on the significance of the entire work rather than individual parts. When judging the quality of materials, several standards and combinations of standards may be used.
The following principles will guide selection:
Contemporary significance or permanent value
Reputation and/or authority of author, editor, or illustrator
Literary merit
Relation to existing collection and to other materials on subject
Price and availability
Format and ease of use
Scarcity of information in subject area
Availability of material in other area libraries
Attention of critics, reviewers, media and public

The following standard selection aids are used:
Horn Book
Library Journal
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Wilson Library Bulletin
Publishers’ catalogs and bibliographies prepared by various libraries and subject authorities also are checked.


A gift for the library collection may consist of materials, equipment, or of funds for the purchase of materials and equipment. Funds may be given for acquiring materials recommended by the library staff or for the purchase of specific items requested by the donor. However, the library will accept money and other property only if all conditions attached thereunto are acceptable to it. The library encourages gifts not earmarked for specific items in order to permit the most flexible use of the donation for the improvement of the library.
All gifts are subject to the following limitations:
The library retains unconditional ownership of the gift.
The library makes the final decision on its own use or other disposition of the gift.
The library reserves the right to decide the conditions of display, housing, and access to materials.

Whenever possible, the library obtains and retains reference copies of all printed materials which contribute to the knowledge of Mecklenburg County, past and present. Duplicates of many items are available for circulation.
Local history material may be acquired even though it does not meet other selection criteria.

Periodicals are purchased to:
supplement the book collection
provide material not yet available in book form
provide recreational reading
aid in book selection
furnish professional reading for the staff
Periodicals selected are:
those which are considered authoritative and objective
those indexed in the standard periodicals indexes
those of local interest
those frequently in demand


Newspapers are selected to meet reference and research needs, to provide current information, and to satisfy casual interest in current events. Local and national newspapers are supplied upon sufficient demand and within budget and space limitations.

Microforms are required to augment the periodicals and newspaper collections and save space and to provide specialized materials not otherwise available.

Pamphlets are defined as unbound, free or inexpensive materials which are not catalogued and which are normally organized in a subject file. They are especially useful for providing information on how-to-do-it techniques, vocations, travel, subjects of local interest, current issues, and fields in which few books are available.
General selection criteria apply to pamphlet selection. Because pamphlets are widely used for propaganda and/or advertising, it is necessary that they be carefully examined before being added to the collection.

General selection criteria apply to the purchase of these materials. Additional factors to be considered in the selection of these materials are: composition, performer, quality of interpretation, and quality of recording.

General selection criteria apply to the purchase of video tapes and DVDs.  Only video tapes in VHS format are to be selected.  While popular appeal is an important consideration in the purchase of video material, the purchase of video material will be limited to titles that provide information on the arts, how-to-do-it techniques, travel, vocations, subject of local interest, self-improvement, current issues, classic movies and other areas that are not readily available from commercial video outlets. Classic movies will be selected based on reviews from authoritative sources like the American Film Institute. R rated movies will be purchased when they meet to the selection criteria. The rating will be noted on the container. Some duplication of material available from commercial outlets is necessary, but this duplication is to be avoided wherever possible.

In selecting books for children, the library’s objective is to make available a collection that satisfies the informational, recreational, and cultural reading needs and potentials of children from infancy through adolescence. In an age of rapid, widespread development and communication of events and ideas, it is recognized that children’s needs include access to the accurate, responsible presentation of information about topics and issues of current interest in our society; the sensitive, realistic portrayal of the values and complexities of human relationships; and the imaginative, creative use of language and art. The collection is to meet the needs of a varied readership, not those of any particular interest group.
Priority will be given to award-winning books and those favorably reviewed by standard reviewing sources. Other books may be selected on the basis of subject matter and/or author and publisher reputation.
Preference is given to original versions over abridged versions of classics and to high quality artwork. Books published as part of an author’s or publisher’s series will be evaluated as individual titles. Books relating to countries, races, nationalities, religious groups and social issues will be carefully selected. Those which reflect any inherently discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes will not be purchased. Books which are recognized as children’s classics and are of considerable literary merit will be retained or purchased even though they may contain words or episodes which are today unacceptable. Current books which are well-written and portray authentically a period or incident or way of life will be accepted despite the use of an unacceptable term, provided the total quality of the book meets the standards maintained in the children’s collection. The considerations above will also be applied to audio and video recordings with an emphasis on providing educational and cultural materials.

A special division within juvenile materials is the young adult collection. Materials in this collection are aimed at ages sixteen through eighteen and grades ten through twelve. This is a transitional period when users are moving toward adult materials, yet still have special interests and needs. Materials chosen for this category will be subject to previously stated selection standards and may be chosen from either adult or juvenile sources. They can be in any subject area and fiction, but, by virtue of subject matter, language and/or reading level, will be particularly suited to this group.


The library must weigh specific demand for duplication of materials in relation to the total library program and policies. The purchase of additional copies of material is governed by a combination of demand, intrinsic or historical value, and perceived need in the community. Current popular titles will be duplicated to meet public demand.

The discarding of materials is selection in reverse. Systematic withdrawal of materials which are no longer useful in maintaining an active, accurate collection is necessary. Library materials are discarded for one or more of the following reasons:
Irreparable damage
Insufficient use
Space available for housing materials

A replacement is an item purchased to take the place of an identical title previously in the collection. It is the library’s policy not to replace automatically all materials withdrawn because of loss, damage, or wear. Need for replacement in each case is judged by two factors: (1) existence of adequate coverage of the subject, especially if more current material is available, and (2) demand for the specific title.

Once an item has been accepted as qualifying under the selection policies and rules, it will not be removed at the request of those who disagree with it unless it can be shown to be in violation of those policies and rules.
There is a formal procedure for the reconsideration of materials (See Materials Reconsideration Procedure).


This policy will be revised as times and circumstances require.
Note:  The listing of the Materials Selection Policy at contains Library Bill of Rights, The Freedom to Read Statement, and Arrangement of Books on Shelves (with reference to the card catalog and J-4—3rd and 4th grades).


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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. 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.

Adopted June 18, 1948.
Amended February 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980,
inclusion of "age" reaffirmed January 23, 1996,
by the ALA Council



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 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 expressions.

These efforts at suppresion 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 solution, 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 which 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 which 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 his idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept which challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengtened 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 tastes of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inihibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

To some, much of modern literature 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 which will suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.

5. It is not in the public interest 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 the 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-censorhip.

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 fulles 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 Weschester 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; revised January 28, 1972, January 16, 1991, July 12, 2000, June 30, 2004, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee.

A Joint Statement by:

American Library Association
Association of American Publishers

Subsequently endorced 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


– Arranged alphabetical by the author. A number of books by one author would be arranged alphabetically by title; e.g.:

Armour, Richard
Brown, James
Brown, James E.
And Long Ago
Two Lives
What You Read
Carter, James


Dewey Decimal System – Alphabetical by author under the same number; e.g.:

531.2 Br
Bromfield, Louis
Malabar Farm
Pleasant Valley

531.2 Fu
Furgeson, Felix

Biography – Alphabetical by the person it is about:

B (Biography)
C (Carter – person it’s about)
If more than one book on same person’s life, arrange alphabetically by author; e.g.:

Robert E. Lee by D. Freeman would be:

Robert E. Lee by R. Meade would be:

Robert E. Lee by J. Tucker would be:

Collective Biography – We use 920 - arrange alphabetical by author.


I. Fiction

E – easy and picture books

J-4 – 3rd and 4th grades. These are arranged on the shelf in no special order.

J plus author’s letter for juvenile
C (Author – Carter)
Juvenile fiction is arranged as Adult fiction is – alphabetical by author.

II. Non-Fiction – Arranged the same as for Adult non-fiction.

III. New Books – Best sellers are usually kept on table or separate shelf for several months.

IV. The Card Catalog – Arranged like a dictionary.

  1. Composed of three main categories

  • author
  • title
  • subject

  2. The cards are arranged alphabetically letter by letter and then word by word until the end of the line.

  • Art and culture
  • Art thoughts
  • Artesian wells
  • Arts of design

  3. Disregard the initial articles “A”, “An”, or “The”, but consider these articles if they fall within the line.
  4. Initials of forenames file before fully written forenames beginning with the same initial:

  • Brown, J. L.
  • Brown, James
  • Brown, James W.
  • Brown, James William

  5. Arrange all abbreviations as spelled in full except for Mr. and Mrs.

  • Dr. – Doctor
  • Mr.
  • Mrs.
  • St. – Saint

  6. Arrange all numerals in titles as if spelled out in full:

  • “99 recipes” – Ninety-nine recipes

  7. Arrange prefix names as single words:

  • Demonstrations
  • De Montfort
  • De Morgan
  • Demosthenes

  8. Arrange compound names as separate words:

  • New, John
  • New Hampshire
  • New Legion of Satan
  • New Sydenham Society
  • Newark
  • Newfoundland

  9. Consider hyphenated words as if separate words:

  • Book and its story
  • Book-binding
  • Book for a corner
  • Book-hunter
  • Book of animals

  10. Arrange titles under each author alphabetically.