How library materials are selected
What should a public library collection look like?
A public library provides a broad variety of materials, subjects, and viewpoints that equip citizens of all demographics to better understand and navigate a complex world. Everyone will find things they like in a strong library collection.
Who selects materials for the library?
A team of our Botetourt Library professional staff members recommends titles to order. The Materials Manager handles the acquisitions (orders) under the direct supervision of the Library Director.
How do selectors decide which titles to order?
As professionally-trained librarians, we use a variety of tools that help us identify new releases, core subject areas, community interests, collection gaps, hot topics, bestsellers, reading trends, and other information we need to know to make purchasing decisions. Some examples of selection tools include:
- Professional reviews from both general and subject-specific sources
- Vendor book lists and publisher selection tools
- Bestseller lists (like New York Times)
- Book previews (sometimes including advance reading copies)
- Patron requests (through online catalog and other methods)
- Input from front-line staff (who field questions and requests from patrons daily)
- Collection usage data (what's in high or rising demand)
We apply specific criteria to each potential title to decide if it's a good fit for Botetourt. You can read more details in our Collection Development Policy. Here are some examples of criteria we consider (titles do not need to meet all criteria to be considered):
- Is it relevant to community needs and interests, including patron requests?
- How has it been received by critics and reviewers?
- Does it represent diverse viewpoints or important movements, genres, or trends?
- How is the work considered as a whole (not just its parts)?
- Does it have high technical quality, clarity, or artistic presentation?
- Is it worth the cost, or is there a similar and more affordable option?
Materials selection is both an art and a science. We appreciate feedback from the community to help us better identify needs and interests!
Does someone read, watch, or listen to all materials before they're added to the library collection?
We consider 700+ titles per month, so it's not possible to completely read, watch, or listen to all materials. Fortunately, helpful selection tools tell us what we need to know without having to consume the entire content.
Can I suggest a title to add to the library's collection?
Yes, we love it when you tell us what you want!
All purchase requests are filtered through our normal selection process, including checking for alignment with our selection criteria. We do not normally purchase older titles, but if we can't purchase what you want, we can probably get it for you through our partner libraries in the Roanoke Valley Libraries consortium or through our interlibrary loan service.
You can submit purchase requests for physical materials through your library account or for digital materials in Libby (Overdrive). You can also contact us directly with your suggestions, and we'll get it to the selection team for consideration.
Concerns about materials in the library collection
What if I find a title in the library that I don't think should be in the collection?
We take the removal of materials from our collection very seriously, since it was purchased with taxpayer funds and thoughtfully selected according to community needs/interests and collection criteria.
First, please talk to a professional librarian about your concerns. Most of the staff you interact with at the front desk or by phone do not select materials, so ask for a Branch Manager. They will be better able to answer your questions and respond to your concerns.
If, after this conversation, you still think the title should be removed, then (if you are eligible to submit a request) you can fill out a Reconsideration Form so it can go through a formal review process. You can see more details in our Reconsideration Policy.
Requests for reconsideration may be submitted only by Botetourt County residents who have valid Roanoke Valley Libraries accounts, and requests may only address materials owned by Botetourt County Library.
What happens after I submit a Request for Reconsideration Form?
Once you've submitted a complete form for the title, the Library Director convenes a 3-person Reconsideration Committee, composed of at least two professional librarians from our staff and (usually) a Library Board member.
The Committee reads, watches, or listens to the title in its entirety, researches the title, and compares their findings with the Library's policies. They make a policy-based recommendation to the Library Director, who then responds to the requestor with a final decision. The decision can be appealed before the Library Board of Trustees.
It generally takes the Committee about 30 days to complete a review of one title, depending on the availability of the members and material (which may be checked out by someone else).
Requests for removal are taken very seriously, and decisions are only made after careful, thoughtful deliberation.
Can you put labels on or relocate materials if they have controversial content?
As a public library, we let each user form their own opinions about the materials they choose to access. We do not label, relocate, segregate, or otherwise indicate viewpoint-based judgments about content.
I don't want my child to find material that I feel is unsuitable for them.
Our children's and young adult collections contain content that is specifically identified by publishers and reviewers as intended and appropriate for those audiences. That said, titles that are enthusiastically embraced by some parents may be viewed as harmful or objectionable by others. Every family and child is unique, and only you can decide what is appropriate for your family.
We fully support your parental rights to choose content that is suitable for your own family.
- Children under age 13 must be accompanied by a responsible adult age 18+ in all our libraries.
- The caregiver is responsible for all the child's activities and access in the library.
- Parents have full control of their child's library account until they turn 18.
- Parents can connect multiple family accounts for easier access.
Removing items from the library collection
Do you ever remove materials from the library collection?
Yes, we have limited space in our facilities, so if we want to get new stuff, we have to make room! We regularly examine our collections and remove items (a process called "weeding") according to specific criteria. Examples of this criteria include (but are not limited to):
- It's not being used by patrons.
- The information is outdated, inaccurate, or superseded by more thorough or updated information (science and medical subjects especially).
- It's in poor condition (like a book that is falling apart or a scratched DVD).
- It's a duplicate copy and no longer needed (after a title's popularity has waned).
What happens to materials when they're removed from the collection?
Most weeded materials are donated to the Friends of the Library non-profit organization, which they then sell to raise money in support of library programs and projects. Materials that do not sell are in turn donated to a non-profit organization like TAP or sold to Better World Books.