Collection Management Policy
Executive Summary

The public library exists primarily to provide access to information on all subjects, from all points of view, to all people who live in the geographic area served by the library regardless of race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, income, age, or any other arbitrary classification. 1

Need for a Collection Management Policy

Public libraries have to follow some form of selection guidelines because their facilities and budgets place restrictions on the amount of materials they can acquire. A written plan helps librarians apply their skills for selecting, organizing, and maintaining library materials in a consistent manner over time within the context of their own circumstances. BPL has written an extensive collection management policy that was used to train and guide other libraries throughout the United States and Canada. This revision is based on that policy.

The BPL Collection Management Policy

The 2023 BPL collection management policy is dependent upon and guided by:

  • The library motto:
    • Preserving the Past, Exploring the Future
  • Mission Statement: :
    • The mission of the Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality experience to our community for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment.
  • Vision Statement: :
    • The Birmingham Public Library will play a vital role in the city by recognizing the potential of our community and transforming lives through community, education and technology.
  • Core Values
    • Service
    • Employees
    • Leadership
    • Learning
    • Innovation
    • Respect
    • Diversity
    • Integrity
  • Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement

The policy:

  • Reflects the influences of the community served
  • Provides a basis for acquiring material and information
  • Defines the library's mission and goals for the collection
  • Sets coherent boundaries for the collection
  • Provides a systematic method for utilizing the budget
  • Provides for systematic management of the library's collection
  • Sets a systemwide standard for the organization of materials
  • Serves as a training tool for library staff
  • Promotes the sharing of materials between locations

In addition to guiding the acquisition and disposition of library materials, this policy also incorporates a Preservation Initiative for the library’s historic and valuable special collections. A collection of this caliber is rarely associated with public libraries and requires collection management techniques practiced in research and university facilities.

The most recent policy is currently under revision. While some practices have changed since the policy was published, others remain intact. Obsolete procedures will be omitted. Updates will reflect changes brought about by technology and reorganization.

General Organization of the BPL Collection Management Policy

The most recent policy is online and provides links both within the document and to additional online resources. It is organized so that readers may locate information in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Selection by library type
  • Selection by subject
  • Selection by format
  • Audience
  • Discrete collections
  • Maintenance
General Selection Criteria at BPL

In general BPL seeks to develop current attractive collections for the populations served. Materials reflect different perspectives for different audiences or locations. Criteria for the selection of purchases or gifts may include:

  • Availability within the system
  • Currency or timeliness
  • Appeal for the local audience
  • Subject relevance or popular topics
  • Demand or anticipated demand
  • Authority of the piece or critical review
  • Local significance
  • Format
  • Collection gaps
  • Potential for promoting reading and use of the library

The purchase of materials is not an endorsement by BPL for the content or viewpoint presented.

General Collection Maintenance at BPL

The goal of the library is to provide a planned and well-balanced collection for the community. The materials are continually and thoughtfully reevaluated to determine if they still meet the library's selection guidelines and the expectations of the community served.

General considerations used to identify materials to be weeded include but are not limited to the following:

  • Old, out-of-date, damaged, or no longer popular
  • Erroneous due to passage of time, incomplete information, or dated point of view
  • Duplication
  • Superseded editions
  • Lack or loss of interest
  • Relevance to population served
Intellectual Freedom

Requests may be made either to add or to withdraw from the collection. This policy prepares the library to address these requests. Materials are included in the collection because they were thought to be appropriate. Exclusion of materials may occur due to accessibility, interest, or lack of documentation. Some materials are intentionally excluded. These include:

  • Fill-in-the-blank workbooks
  • Materials marketed exclusively in infomercials, personal web sites, or telemarketing
  • Self-published materials that lack local significance
  • Textbooks currently used in the schools

Materials are not removed or avoided simply because of expression, language, viewpoint, or mature content.

BPL supports the right of individuals to choose what they will or will not use from the library’s collection. Parents or parental guardians make these choices for their minor children. While individuals may choose for themselves or their children, they may not choose for others.


The policy will be revised periodically.

1. Office for Intellectual Freedom. American Library Association. Intellectual Freedom Manual. 7th ed. Chicago: ALA, 2006: 8.

Page Last Modified: 8/18/2023 10:25 AM