Collection Development Policy

Collection Development Policy

Purpose of the Policy

This Collection Development Policy upholds the mission and goals of the Somerville Public Library by setting guidelines for the selection of library materials. It is also used to inform the public about standards and principles that are applied during the selection and deselection process.

Library Mission Statement

The Somerville Public Library enhances the Somerville experience by acting as a trusted community connector, providing cultural and learning opportunities to all.

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees October 16, 2019

Values Statement

We are committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment; courteous and respectful library staff; and free and equal access to library materials, programs, and services. We affirm the values set forth in the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights; serve as a trusted community resource; and hold dear the principles of Intellectual Freedom and a patron’s right to privacy. We offer enrichment through educational and cultural experiences, and instill a love of reading and learning driven by the ever-changing needs and interests of our patrons.

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees October 16, 2019

Statement of Racial and Social Justice

The Somerville Public Library is committed to providing collections and services that are representative of the people and communities we serve. We stand with librarians across the country who recognize that systemic racism and social injustice left unchecked has led to an underrepresentation of voices that is reflected in our services, collections, and profession.

To create a more inclusive library, we will examine our policies, procedures, and collections; increase representation of marginalized groups in our programs and services; pursue learning opportunities that will confront our biases; and engage the Somerville community to inform our work. We pledge to work alongside Somerville’s Department of Racial and Social Justice, including the American with Disabilities

Division, and other city departments, organizations, and people who are working to eliminate institutional racism and inequality.

Reviewed by Somerville’s Department of Racial and Social Justice, May 4, 2022

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees May 11, 2022

Reviewed by the Somerville Law Department August 2022

Community Statement

The Somerville community is characterized by its multigenerational and ethnically diverse population, vibrant business community, and rich history and culture. Decisions regarding collection development are made with an understanding of the dynamic and diverse nature of the community, enabling the Library to develop collections that reflect the community’s evolving interests and needs.

Scope of Collection

The Library maintains collections for adults, teens, and children, with an emphasis on recent and in-demand publications. These collections exist to serve the Somerville community’s educational, recreational, cultural, and informational needs. Along with a circulating collection of popular materials, the Central Library maintains special collections which include: Local History; ELL/Literacy; Community Languages; a Small Press collection; and a Library of Things. The Library’s physical collections are supported by its digital collections. As a public, rather than an academic, library, the Library does not collect specialized items such as textbooks.

The Branch collections are tailored to meet the specific needs of the patrons who live in each neighborhood and focus on popular materials in a variety of print and audiovisual formats. Branch collections vary in size and scope depending on community needs and space limitations.

Through its membership in the Minuteman Library Network, the Library provides efficient access to print and electronic materials for patrons whose needs reach beyond the scope of Somerville’s collection. When patrons request materials not owned by the Somerville Public Library or another Minuteman Library, every effort is made to locate these items through either the Commonwealth Catalog or interlibrary loan.

Collection Development

Responsibility for Selection

Responsibility for collection development rests with the Library Director, who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Library Board of Trustees. The selection of materials is delegated to staff members who are guided by this policy and are knowledgeable in collection development principles and practices.

Selection Guidelines

Collection Development relies on the professional skills and training of library staff. In order to create and maintain a diverse and multifaceted collection in a variety of formats, library staff will apply the following criteria when evaluating materials, whether purchased, requested, or donated. An item does not need to meet all criteria to be selected:

  • Anticipated local demand
  • Favorable reviews and/or inclusion in reputable resources
  • Award winners and/or bestsellers
  • Relationship to the existing collection
  • Currency and accuracy of information
  • Relevance to the interest and needs of the community
  • Promotion of literacy and support of educational initiatives
  • Representation of diverse points of view
  • Cost and availability
  • Durability and sustainability of format for library use
  • Space and processing requirements
  • Availability of material throughout the Minuteman Library Network
  • Digital resources, including e-books, e-audiobooks, streaming video, music, government documents, and databases are subject to the same general selection criteria as other materials. Additional criteria for electronic resources include:
  • Licensing requirements
  • Comparison of content and cost with other available formats
  • Long term availability and perpetual access rights
  • Ease of use and remote access potential

Special collections may also have additional selection criteria.

Statement on Materials for Children and Teens

The Children’s and Teen Departments offer materials that meet the informational and recreational needs of patrons from birth through eighteen years of age. These collections include materials and formats that develop literacy, stimulate the imagination, and provide entertainment and learning opportunities.

The Children’s and Teen Departments maintain collections that are balanced, diverse, and relevant. Recognizing the extremely broad developmental range of children and teens served, library staff makes a special effort to create collections that include materials for children and teens of every reading ability and comprehension level.

Special Collections

Local History

The Local History collection offers primary and secondary sources essential to understanding the history of Somerville. This collection of materials contributes to a greater knowledge of the city’s history and development.

The Library selects and retains materials pertaining to the cultural, economic, historical, and social life of Somerville. Library staff is responsible for ensuring that the collection acquires only materials that fall within the scope of the collection. Content areas include but are not limited to: the history of Somerville as a built environment, local artists and the arts, environmental issues, housing, immigration, news stories, city institutions, and local politics. The Local History collection does not acquire three-dimensional items.

Small Press Collection

The Small Press collection gathers and preserves small press publications, and presents viewpoints often relegated to the margins. Items in the collection include zines, poetry chapbooks, independent comics, and other small books, with a focus on materials produced locally.

Community Languages

To meet the needs of a diverse population, the Library collects recreational and informational material for all ages in languages other than English, with a primary focus on languages that reflect Somerville’s linguistic diversity. Given limitations in acquiring materials in languages other than English, collection development may be constrained to those materials that are readily available for purchase and can be cataloged.

English Language Learners (ELL) / Literacy

The Library offers a special collection for patrons whose first language is something other than English. The ELL / Literacy collection includes books, audiovisual, and online materials to support the educational, informational, and career goals of English Learners and those teaching ELL. Special focus is on ELL materials for learning reading, writing, and grammar at all levels, as well as test preparation for English Language exams (such as the TOEFL and IELTS). An additional focus of the collection is on materials that support the Library’s citizenship programming and U.S. Citizenship test preparation. Other topics include the culture and history of the United States, life skills, and immigration resources.

Circulating Technology

The Circulating Technology collection increases the community’s access to technology by providing computer equipment, accessories, and software that can be checked out with a library card and used in locations beyond the Library.

Items added to the Circulating Technology collection will evolve to meet the changing needs and interests of a diverse and growing community. Potential acquisitions are evaluated using the selection criteria in this policy as well as additional selection criteria which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Demonstrated community need
  • Adequate space and storage
  • Cost and availability
  • Expertise required for repairs and maintenance
  • Circulation data and procedures
  • Patron and staff safety
  • Durability and ease of replacement

An item does not need to meet all criteria to be selected.

Library of Things

The Library of Things is a circulating collection of objects and everyday items that enrich the lives of people of all ages, interests, and circumstances by igniting curiosity, providing diverse opportunities for learning, encouraging experimentation, and fun.

Items are added to the Library’s collection to meet the changing needs and interests of a diverse and growing community, while encouraging sharing and reducing waste and overconsumption. Potential acquisitions are evaluated using the selection criteria in this policy as well as additional selection criteria which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Demonstrated community need
  • Adequate space and storage
  • Cost and availability
  • Expertise required for repairs and maintenance
  • Circulation data and procedures
  • Patron and staff safety
  • Durability and ease of replacement

An item does not need to meet all criteria to be selected.

Requests for Selection

Public requests for the purchase of library materials go through the same selection process as other materials being considered for the collection. Requested materials may be added to the collection provided they meet the Library’s selection criteria.

Deselection and Maintenance

The Library regularly withdraws items from the collection for due to a number of factors, including but not limited to: date of publication, frequency or lack of circulation, physical condition, community interest, and availability of newer or more authoritative materials.

Materials that no longer meet the stated objectives of the Library (including items that have become damaged or obsolete) will be systematically withdrawn according to accepted professional practices. Items withdrawn because of loss, damage, or general condition may be considered for replacement, provided they meet the Library’s selection criteria in this policy. Determining whether an item should be mended, rather than replaced or withdrawn, is the responsibility of the owning Library.

Withdrawn items may be given to the Friends of the Library to sell for the benefit of the Library and its programs, or may be recycled or disposed of at the discretion of the Library.

Gifts & Donations

The Somerville Public Library welcomes unrestricted donations, including monetary donations, books, materials, equipment, works of art, documents, photographs, and property of any kind. Donation of materials is made with the understanding that such materials may be added to the Library’s collection if they meet the selection criteria of this policy. Not all donations will be selected for retention, and patrons are encouraged to consult with library staff before donating. The Library reserves the right to refuse any gift or donation.

Donated items will not be returned and may be discarded with time. If not added to the collection, donated items may be given to the Friends of the Library for sale, given to other libraries, recycled, or discarded.

The Library will not appraise donated materials for tax purposes. The Library will, upon request of the donor, provide a written receipt of the gifts indicating only the number of items and a general description of materials.

Intellectual Freedom

The Somerville Public Library offers a wide variety of materials and programs to support its mission of providing cultural and learning opportunities to all. The Library respects the freedom of information of its users and adheres to the principles expressed in the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read and Freedom to View statements (see Appendices A, B, C). The Library's goal is to offer a diverse set of ideas and opinions, including those which may be unorthodox or controversial. The Library opposes any attempts by individuals or groups to censor items in its collection or programs it offers.

Parents and guardians are responsible for overseeing their minor children’s use of the Library’s collections and services. The Somerville Public Library does not stand in place of a parent and is not charged with a parent's rights, duties, and responsibilities.

The Library will not act in the role of censor for any age level, material type, or subject matter. Selection of materials and services will not be restricted by the possibility that these items may be accessed by patrons beyond the intended audience. The Library does not use any system of coding, rating, or labeling to identify or segregate materials and services for purposes of censorship. Challenges regarding Library materials and programs are handled in accordance with the Library's Request for Reconsideration section of this policy.

Request for Reconsideration

The Somerville Public Library adheres to and supports the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and the Freedom to View (Appendices A, B, C) which state that the choice of library materials for personal use is purely an individual matter. An individual or group cannot restrict the freedom of other persons to read, access, or use library materials.

Concerns about materials or programs currently offered at the Library may be expressed by filling out a Request for Reconsideration form (Appendix D). Forms may be submitted in writing to the attention of the Director of Libraries either in person, or c/o Somerville Public Library, 79 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143; forms may also be submitted electronically through the Somerville Public Library’s website (Appendix H), or via email. Patrons submitting a Request for Reconsideration will be given a copy of this collection development policy, or the Somerville Public Library’s Program Development Policy (Appendix G); the ALA Library Bill of Rights, the ALA Freedom to Read Statement, and the ALA Freedom to View Statement (Appendices A, B, C). Anonymous submissions will not be considered, nor will submissions from individuals or stakeholders not residing or located in Somerville, MA. During the reconsideration process, the material or program will remain available in the Library.

A request for reconsideration will be reviewed by the Library Director or their designee, who will respond in writing to the patron initiating the request. The patron may choose to appeal the decision to the Board of Trustees. The decision of the Board of Trustees will be final.


  1. ALA Library Bill of Rights
  2. ALA Freedom to Read Statement
  3. ALA Freedom to View Statement
  4. Request for Reconsideration Form
  5. City of Somerville website
  6. SPL Strategic Plan
  7. SPL Program Development Policy
  8. SPL website

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees May 11, 2022

Reviewed by the Somerville Law Department August 2022