Materials Selection Policy

A. Purpose of materials selection policy

The purpose of the Scarborough Public Library materials selection policy is twofold:

  1. To provide guidelines for the staff in their roles as selectors. 
  2. To acquaint the general public with the scope of the collection and with the principles of selection used to acquire library materials.

B.  Selection objectives

Materials selection is carried out to support the Library’s mission “to provide access to a broad and deep collection and high-quality services that promote lifelong learning in a welcoming, community-centered facility.”  Scarborough Public Library recognizes the diversity of its users and potential users, and makes materials selections accordingly, striving, in general, for breadth rather than depth. In addition to providing information on a wide variety of subjects, the Library makes an effort to collect material which represents varied points of view on topics which are open to interpretation. While students at all levels are an important part of the Library’s clientele, and many of the materials acquired may be useful to them in their courses of study, it is not the aim of the Library to meet all of their research needs or to serve as a substitute for the libraries at local academic institutions. Likewise, library materials are not intended to support professional activity or take the place of a professional library but rather to provide information adequate for the interested layperson.

C.  Responsibility for selection

The Board has delegated the responsibility for material selection to the professional staff, who are responsible for the day-to-day development of the collection.

D.  Selection criteria

Materials in all formats are selected according to the following general criteria:

  1. Patron demand or interest.
  2. Need/relationship to other material in the collection.
  3. Quality (including accuracy, authority, and currency, in the case of non-fiction; production quality, in the case of audiovisual material; quality of illustration and reproduction in the case of picture books and art books, etc.)
  4. Appropriateness of format
  5. Cost
  6. Access, including quality and availability of indexing, especially for periodicals
  7. Licensing restrictions
  8. Professional judgment

E.  Selection aids

Because it is not possible to personally view/listen to/read the large number of books and audiovisual materials published annually, selectors rely on reviews, lists of award winners, and standard bibliographies to guide them in their selections. Reviews found in professional and general periodicals and in regional newspapers are the primary tools used to determine the degree to which a particular title meets the selection criteria. While every reasonable effort is made to find one or more reviews of all titles added to the collection, items for which no review is available may be acquired if there is significant public demand or a strong need due to scarcity of material in the subject area.

F.  Controversial materials

Materials on controversial issues that present only one side of a question or are written in a violent, sensational, or inflammatory manner will ordinarily not be selected. Obscene books and periodicals, which are lewd with deliberate intent, shall not be selected for the Library. However, no book shall be judged for exclusion by taking single passages out of context and basing exclusion of that book on such passages. The Library Director stands ready to review individual decisions upon written request.

G.  Affirmation of Intellectual Freedom

The Scarborough Public Library values a free and inquiring society, and affirms its support of the Library Bill of Rights, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to Read Statement, and M.S.R.A. 27 § 121 Confidentiality of library records.  Parents or legal guardians have sole responsibility for the use of materials by their minor children.

The selection of materials for the Library’s collection will not be inhibited by the possibility that materials may come into the possession of children.

H.  Procedure for handling objections to material

When a patron objects to a particular item, the objection shall be made in writing using the Request for Reconsideration of Material form. The request will be reviewed in keeping with the Appeal of Library Action or Administrative Decision Policy.

I.  Gifts of materials

Gifts of library materials are subject to the same selection criteria as material which is being considered for purchase (see above). The Library’s professional staff reserves the right to refuse to accept and/or to dispose of, in any way it chooses, items which do not meet these criteria.  Likewise, gifts will be shelved, classified, and circulated using the same criteria applied to purchased materials. In keeping with the Library’s general policy on gifts, any special stipulations on the part of the donor must be acceptable to the Board of Trustees.

Gifts of money for memorial books or other library material are also administered at the discretion of the professional staff. While donors are welcome to specify subject areas for their donations to be spent on, the selection of specific titles remains the responsibility of staff members. An effort is made to purchase books of lasting value as memorials; however, the Library retains the right to remove memorials from the collection when deemed appropriate due to poor condition, lack of patron interest, inaccuracy of the information contained in them, or any other standard rationales for de-acquisition.

J.  Patron recommendations

Every effort is made to accommodate patron recommendations, especially those which reflect popular interests or a gap in our collections. However, the decision to acquire material is at the discretion of the professional staff, who retain the right to not purchase requested material if it does not meet the selection criteria outlined in this policy. Availability in the Minerva consortium or other Maine libraries may also be considered.

K.  Collection maintenance: weeding, replacement and bindery decisions

Weeding (de-acquisition) and replacement activities, like selection decisions, are based on the overall goals and mission of the Library, and are intended to keep the collection vibrant and useful. Weeding should be ongoing and based on multiple considerations, including condition, accuracy, past use, and perceived current or future interest. Weeding decisions will not be based on controversy about the material in question or its creators. Retention commitments from other Maine libraries will also factor into the decision to weed materials.



  1. Intellectual Freedom Statement
  2. Library Bill of Rights
  3. Freedom to Read Statement
  4. Free Access to Libraries for Minors
  5. M.S.R.A. 27 § 121 Confidentiality of library records
  6. Request for Reconsideration of Materials form


Adopted 2/20/97
Revised 6/15/17