By Lori Belongia
How are materials selected for the Marshfield Public Library?
This is a great question and its answer reflects the thought and planning that go into creating a library collection that serves its community. First and foremost an important seven page document, the Materials Selection Policy, serves as a guide for those who select library materials. Within that policy is a statement of the library’s mission and the roles it plays for the Marshfield community. This policy can be located on the library’s website at: http://catalog.marshfieldlibrary.org/Polaris/library/userdef/PDFfiles/5.110.pdf
These form the foundation upon which purchasing, gift acceptance, and de-selection or weeding are made. The policy seeks to provide for the widest range of information and points of view to serve our residents’ interests, capacities, and problems. It also establishes criteria for the selection of specific types of material.
Marshfield’s population encompasses a wide variety of interests, ages, educational backgrounds, and financial situations. Meeting the needs of the community within the framework of available staff and funds is an important Library goal.
Our purpose is to provide a well-rounded collection of books, media, and electronic resources that record the knowledge of humankind. Next is to organize those materials in a manner that offers ready access to them and the staff to encourage and guide in their use. This establishes the library as a reliable, accessible source of information and reference.
The authority and responsibility for the selection of library materials rests with the Library Director and under their direction is delegated to professional librarians qualified for this process by their education and experience. The librarians consult review journals, as well as literary or popular sources of critical evaluation (such as Library Journal, Booklist, and special AV reviews). They then apply their knowledge of the community interests and the library’s roles to make selections for addition to the collection.
Before any order is sent to our vendors, it is reviewed and approved by the Library Director. Suggestions from the public about which items to purchase are always welcome and are given due consideration under the selection criteria.
Obviously, different materials are selected based on their suitability for the children’s collection (from pre-school to age 14) versus the adult and reference collections. Selections must be as broad in scope as the interests of the community.
Other criteria that come into the selection process are the anticipated demand for a particular item, changes in the social and intellectual community climate, and flexible attitudes toward new formats. This means that we try hard to assure that we order enough copies of high interest items (best sellers) to satisfy demand. We also experiment with new formats such as Playaways (books and videos loaded on an mp3 player for lending) when we think public interest is moving in that direction.
If you would like to know more about the policy, just visit our website (www.marshfieldlibrary.org/) or ask at the Reference Center and they will show you a copy. Any of the librarians will be glad to discuss or explain our process and policy. We’re happy to talk about it. It’s a huge responsibility, but it is also one of the more enjoyable portions of our job.