The purpose of the materials selection policy of the Normal Public Library is to guide the librarians and to inform the public about the principles upon which selections are made. A policy cannot replace the judgment of librarians but stating goals and indicating general boundaries will assist them in choosing from a vast array of available materials.
The responsibility of the library is to serve the community, not to promote – and above all not to censor – any particular political, moral, philosophical, or religious conviction or opinion. No one, least of all a public library, has the right to judge what another may or may not read, hear or view.
We recognize that censorship is a purely individual matter and hold that while people are free to reject – for themselves and for those for whom they are legally responsible – materials of which they do not approve, they cannot exercise this right of censorship to restrict for others the freedom to read, hear or view. History shows that many books, which have been most controversial or objectionable to some persons or groups at one time, have eventually come to be recognized among those most, rather than least, deserving of a place in public libraries. If an idea is truly dangerous or evil, the best protection against it is a public which has been exposed to it and has subsequently rejected it. The Board of Trustees of the Normal Public Library, therefore, adopts the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, and the Freedom to View statements as the foundations for its materials selection policy. The library does not label or censor materials.
The primary objectives of selection shall be to collect physical and digital materials of contemporary significance and of permanent value. The library also recognizes an obligation to make available materials for enlightenment and recreation, even though such materials may not have an enduring interest or value. The library does not consider it necessary or desirable to acquire all materials on any subject if these items tend to duplicate each other. The library does not attempt to develop a complete research collection. Request for scholarly materials or any materials currently unavailable may be requested via interlibrary loan.
Points considered in selection are literary, education, information, artistic, and recreational value; authority and effectiveness of presentation; qualities conducive to critical thought and understanding; relations to existing collection and other materials on the subject; attention of critics, reviewers and public; number and nature of requests from the public; appropriate physical or digital formats; and available funds and space. Titles are selected on the basis of generally accepted criteria. Contemporary and popular authors are included as well as those who have demonstrated their enduring worth. There is no single set of criteria that can be applied to all items because of the great diversity of materials.
The library acquires, makes available, and encourages the use of physical and digital video and audio formats to serve the general information or recreation needs within a diverse community. Materials selection is guided by a general design to collect both recreational and informational content representing a wide variety of general subjects and genres. Feature films will be acquired to serve differing tastes and interests. An effort will be made to include all popular genres including comedy, mystery, classics, musicals, award winners, and romances as well as other broad-based genres. Nonfiction video content is acquired when the presentation is most appropriate, effective, or unique to that format. The collection does not include material obtained specifically for school or college curriculum use.
Because the library aims to be impartial in materials selection, in the case of controversial issues, variety and balance of opinion are sought whenever available. No particular opinions or special interests are favored. The library does not attempt to obtain textbooks or other curriculum related materials except as such materials serve the general public. Legal and medical works will not be acquired through any channels except as they are useful to the layperson.
In the selection of materials for the collection, particular attention is given to items of a special interest to the community. An effort is made to include those subjects that have a bearing upon the community life. Works by local authors must meet the standards for acquisition required of other collection materials.
Staff members participating in book selection are expected to be familiar not only with the general character of the community, but also with its unique characteristics, interests, and activities.
As an indication of current need, the library relies upon the requests received in the service departments, patrons’ suggestions of materials for acquisition, special subject bibliographies, and reading/listening/viewing trends as reported in the library literature. Since the library is concerned with stimulating use and with providing for varied reading interests, various forms of publicity, displays, and physical organization of its materials are constantly employed.
The library’s objective in providing printed materials for children is to guide the child toward the enjoyment of reading and the appreciation of reading materials. In the selection of all items for children, the library tries to anticipate and meet the diverse interests, needs, and skills of children of all ages, from the beginner to the child ready for adult books. As with the adult collection, appropriate non-print materials will be purchased when they complement the collection. Feature films, learning videos, and a wide variety of other videos will be selected for children ranging from preschool through high school as well as their families.
Materials as gifts
Materials will be accepted as gifts on the condition that librarians have the authority to make whatever disposition they deem advisable. Gift materials added to the library must meet the standards required of other acquired materials.
The library will not accept special collections of books to be kept together as a separate physical entity. Patrons or organizations who wish to give gifts of any consequence to the library are referred to the director. Gift collections may be accepted only by the director with the understanding that they may or may not be integrated into the general collection, the only form of donor identification being a bookplate.
Book selection aids
Selection aids used by the library are recommended basic lists, special bibliographies for reference books, particular subjected materials, and book reviewing journals. No one publication is relied upon exclusively; furthermore, the critical opinions of reviewers are checked against each other.
A patron who may object to a specific book or other library materials will be requested to complete the Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form available from the library website and at the circulation desk. Library staff members will review the request and render a decision. If the decision is contested, a Normal resident may contact the Normal Public Library Board of Trustees. The Board takes all requests for reconsideration seriously; however, they are not obligated to handle the full reconsideration process when submitted by a nonresident. When a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form is received, the president of the Board of Trustees will appoint a committee of librarians and library trustees.
Committee members review the Request for Reconsideration and then read the item in question, meet and discuss the material and render a decision as to the disposition of the item in question.
Responsibility for the selection of library materials
Ultimate responsibility for materials selection, as for all library activities, rests with the director who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Board of Trustees. The director determines allocation of materials funds among subject areas. No specific rules govern the distribution of those funds although consideration is given to collection strengths and balance in the collection as well as to changing community needs.
Responsibility for materials, regardless of format, used by children rests with their parents and legal guardians. Selection will not be inhibited by the possibility that materials may inadvertently come into possession of children.
De-selection of library materials
Materials that are obsolete or outmoded or worn are withdrawn on a regular basis from the active collection. Records of the local community, however, are an exception. Materials relating to Normal, Bloomington, and McLean County are either retained in-house or offered to the McLean County Museum of History for their collection.
Adopted by the Normal Public Library Board of Trustees, June 22, 2005; amended July 27, 2005. Readopted June 20, 2007; amended September 30, 2009; amended December 15, 2021.