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Collection Development Policy

April 1987
Revised and Adopted by The Board of Trustees October 28, 1996
Revised August 28, 2000
Revised January 21, 2003
Revised April 25, 2005
Revised April 27, 2009

Collection Development Policy

The mission of the Sno-Isle Libraries is to be a community doorway to reading, resources and life long learning and to be a center for people, ideas and culture.

Sno-Isle Libraries provides library service to residents of Snohomish and Island Counties through twenty-one community libraries and to individuals and facilities served by the Library on Wheels Department. Community libraries vary in size, most often in correspondence to the size of the population they serve. The communities served are a mix of urban, suburban, and rural; a few are geographically isolated with limited access to information and entertainment services beyond the local library. The Sno-Isle Libraries collection is developed in response to needs and interests of the communities served in the Library District.


The Collection Development Policy governs the selection, organization, and maintenance of the collection for Sno-Isle Libraries. The purpose of the policy is:

  • To describe criteria for selection of library materials;
  • To describe the library collection and how it is organized and managed;
  • To inform the public of the philosophy of collection development;
  • To establish a framework for continuous evaluation and improvement of the collection.

The Board of Trustees of Sno-Isle Libraries entrusts the development of the library collection to the Executive Director, who in turn delegates selection of library collections to professional staff. Community library collections are considered to be part of a larger whole for the Library District and are referred to in this policy as a single collection. Individuals and groups within the Library District will have access to a library collection that meets widely separate and diverse interests, backgrounds, cultural heritage, social values, and needs. The Board of Trustees recognizes that the library is a community resource for people of all ages, races, creeds, national origins, sexual orientation, and political or social views. It is a physical and virtual place where ideas and information are freely exchanged. Sno-Isle Libraries equally values every customer's journey with materials and the tools to find them. A variety of viewpoints are represented in the library collection and the library upholds the right of the individual to obtain information, though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to others. The existence of a particular viewpoint in the collection is an expression of the Library's commitment to intellectual freedom and not an endorsement of the particular point of view.

The Board of Trustees of the Sno-Isle Libraries declares that it adheres to and supports:

Therefore, the above-listed documents are considered to be a part of this policy. The Board of Trustees affirms reading, listening, and viewing to be an individual's private matter. Full, confidential, and unrestricted access to the library collection is essential for Library District residents to participate in our democracy. While library customers are free to select or reject materials for their own use or for the use of their minor children, the freedom of others to use the library collection will not be restricted. Parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to guide and direct the use of the library collection for their own minor children. Library staff do not serve in place of parents (in loco parentis) in guiding children's use of the library collection.

All materials selected in accordance with this policy shall be considered to have been selected by the Board of Trustees in the exercise of its discretion and to further the First Amendment rights of library customers. In the event legal action is commenced against the Library seeking to restrict or remove materials from circulation, the burden of proof shall be on the person or entity bringing such legal action. Materials under question shall not be restricted or withdrawn from circulation because such legal action is pending, unless and until a court decision, after exhausting all appeals, requires the material to be restricted or withdrawn from the collection.


Decisions about adding materials to the library collection are made through the application of general selection criteria, regardless of whether the material under consideration is to be purchased or donated. One or more of the following selection criteria must be met for material to be added to the collection:

  • Support for the Library's mission and roles;
  • Content of the work and its significance or contribution to the diversity or breadth of the collection;
  • Evaluation of the work in professionally-recognized critical review sources;
  • Authority, significance, competence of the author, producer, or publisher of the work;
  • Accuracy and timeliness of the material;
  • Expressed and/or perceived interest or demand for the material in the collection based on requests, data, etc.;
  • Local interest or community relevance;
  • Effectiveness and suitability of the format for a public library;
  • Impact on the materials budget;

Suggestions from the public are encouraged and are evaluated by the staff based on the above criteria. Self-published and self-produced works are considered using the same criteria.


Adult Materials

Materials intended for an adult audience are provided on a wide range of subjects with a variety of treatments. An emphasis is placed on acquiring materials for which there is significant actual or anticipated demand. The Sno-Isle Libraries collection is not intended as an archival library except for local Snohomish and Island counties history materials. Out-of-print titles may not be actively acquired or replaced unless demand warrants.

  • Adult fiction is acquired to respond to the recreational reading, listening, and viewing interests of a public with differing tastes, interests, and reading skills. Current popular fiction is emphasized, including a diversity of novels and short stories by American and world authors.

  • Adult nonfiction material is acquired on a wide range of subjects with a variety of treatments. An emphasis is placed on developing popular subject areas with materials to support the informational, recreational, and educational needs of library customers. Nonfiction materials may also serve to enrich the personal lives of Library District residents. Nonfiction materials assist library users in their formal and informal lifelong learning.

Teen Materials

Teen materials are selected to meet the educational and recreational needs of teens aged twelve through eighteen. An effort is made to provide fiction and nonfiction materials that address the developmental stages of all teens.

  • Teen fiction includes novels written specifically for an audience aged twelve through eighteen. Within this span of ages, there is a wide range of interests and reading abilities. An effort is made to develop and reinforce an interest in reading and literature for this age group.

  • Teen nonfiction materials assist library customers with formal and informal learning. These materials are shelved in the general nonfiction area of each community library alongside adult and juvenile nonfiction to provide all library customers with information presented in varying levels of complexity.

Children's Materials

Children's materials are selected to meet the educational and recreational needs of children from infancy through age twelve. In each community library, a separate children's area facilitates browsing for this audience. The exception is for children's nonfiction, which is shelved in the general nonfiction area of libraries to enable the presentation of information in varying levels of complexity.

  • Children's fiction contains a balance of contemporary and retrospective materials that encourage reading and a love of literature. The primary audience for these materials is children aged seven through twelve.

  • Easy books span a wide range of levels of comprehension and topics, including fiction and nonfiction. Many titles are selected in support of early literacy by providing enjoyment, helping to develop a child's appreciation of art and language, and building vocabulary. The primary audience for this area of the collection is children from infancy to seven years, and their parents and caregivers.

  • Juvenile nonfiction titles are selected for developmentally appropriate levels of information. The primary audience is elementary school age children, aged six through twelve. Juvenile nonfiction materials assist library users in their formal and informal learning.

Media and Electronic Resources

All Sno-Isle Libraries materials are considered part of a single collection that is defined by content rather than by the format in which it is found. The Library recognizes that people communicate and learn in different ways. To serve the diverse needs of library customers, Sno-Isle is committed to collecting and offering access to a variety of media and electronic resources. The criteria for selection, acquisition, and withdrawal of these materials are the same for all formats and areas of the collection.

Because technologies of sound, image, and electronic delivery of information continue to evolve, the Library will monitor and evaluate new formats, implementing them when appropriate.

Library customers' use of Internet resources is governed by the Internet Use and Safety Policy.


Popular magazines are provided in browsing collections for library users of all ages. For teens and children, magazines may also serve as literacy tools for reluctant readers. All community libraries include the local newspaper in the periodical collection and most libraries carry regional and national newspapers to keep Library District residents informed on current issues and events. Retention of back files of magazines and newspapers is based on customers' need for access to back issues. Other factors considered in establishing retention schedules include available space in the library and electronic access to the full text of periodicals.

Reference Materials

Reference materials respond to the information needs for all ages. Reference materials may include print material, maps, and electronic resources. Each community library has a collection of general reference sources and a small, but critical collection of documents or publications emphasizing the local history of that community. Four community libraries house a more specialized reference collection and serve the entire Library District, with each of these community libraries assuming the role of subject specialist in the following subjects:

  • Business, Government, Law, Education
  • Science and Technology
  • Consumer Health and Medicine
  • Arts, History, Humanities, Genealogy


Sno-Isle Libraries is committed to providing access to the widest array of information and reducing unnecessary duplication of materials and collections. Requests for materials not held in any format within the Sno-Isle collection are considered for purchase. Those not added to the collection are referred to the Interlibrary Loan department and an attempt is made to borrow the item for the Sno-Isle customer's use. Interlibrary loan is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, collection development.


To maintain attractive, active, current, and useful collections, library staff examine materials in community libraries systematically throughout the year to assess their relevance to the whole collection, the public, and the statements of this policy. In addition, the collection is continuously assessed for physical condition of materials. All staff are empowered to identify items for removal from the collection in their community library if they are in poor physical condition. Materials withdrawn locally may be reviewed centrally according to broader considerations; materials removed from one community library may be reassigned to another at the discretion of Collection Development staff.

General criteria used in evaluating whether an item should be removed from the collection include:

  • Accuracy
  • Current or potential use
  • Obsolescence
  • Physical condition
  • Completeness (sets)
  • Reference value
  • Availability of similar materials
  • Local community needs
  • Historical value
  • Space in the local library

Materials that are no longer of value or of interest to the public are withdrawn from the collection and may be sold or discarded.


The Library believes in freedom of information for all and does not restrict a user's right to read, listen, or view library materials. Many materials held in the Library collection are controversial and some library users may find materials offensive or inappropriate for the collection. In these instances, a process may be initiated by which library staff are asked to reconsider the inclusion of an item or a group of materials in the collection. To initiate the process, the individual should talk with a staff member at his or her local library and obtain a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form.

Once completed and submitted to a staff member, the review will proceed in three stages, as necessary:

  1. A designated staff member will acknowledge receipt of the Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form within seven days of its receipt at the Service Center. A written response to the concerns stated in the completed form, based on staff review of the material in question, will be sent to the customer within two months.
  2. If the staff response does not satisfactorily resolve the issue, the individual may submit a written request for a review of the material by the Executive Director. The Executive Director will provide a written response to the request for review within forty-five (45) days.
  3. If the Executive Director's response does not satisfactorily resolve the issue, the individual may request an appeal to the Board of Trustees. The appeal request is submitted in writing to the Executive Director. The Board of Trustees will hear public comment on an appeal by the second regularly-scheduled Board meeting after receipt of the appeal letter. A decision will be made by the Board of Trustees at a regularly-scheduled meeting at such time as the Board of Trustees feels fully prepared to consider such decision. If a decision is not made at the time of the appeal, the appellant will be notified in writing as to when the Board of Trustees is prepared to reconsider such decision, and will also be informed in writing as to the Board of Trustee's decision.

Material under question will remain active in the collection during the review process.

Sno-Isle Libraries: Connecting people, ideas and culture