"Policy can be defined in many different ways but it is more than simply a statement of belief (O'Brien 1980). Its major purpose is to guide action (Caldwell 1980). In general, policy is philosophically based, implies intention and suggests a pattern for taking action . . . It creates a framework for action with some basis for discretion within which [school personnel] can discharge their duties with clear direction (Caldwell 1980).

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsMy principal wants to know how I select books. I look in magazines and buy things. What do I say to him?

The mother of a student wants me to remove the book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" from the shelf. It's popular, but should I take it off? She says she'll sue the school.

I just got a box of junky books from the wife of an administrator. I'd like to toss them, but I don't want to get in trouble.

This person would have a lot fewer problems if he or she had an established set of policies and procedures to follow. These questions could be addressed easily with selection, reconsideration, and gift policies.

eye means readThis section of the course contains the following related topics you'll want to investigate (This Week): Issues
Intellectual Property & Copyright
Following Week:
Intellectual Freedom
Rights of Library Users
Internet Access & Filtering Issues.

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What are policies and procedures?

Policies and procedures guide the activities of the library media collection program.

Policies explain why the collection exists and what will be in it. A policy tends to address ideals and generalities.

Procedures explain how the policy will be implemented and who will be involved with the implementation. A procedure should be concrete and specific.

Normally, policies and procedures should be separate documents. Policies are usually published, while procedures are used for internal operations. For example, many website publish school policies.

eye means readRead Pappas, Marjorie (Oct 2004). Selection Policies. School Library Media Activities Monthly; 21(2), 41 + 45.
The author provides advice for school library media centers on developing selection policies.

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Do policies really make a difference?

Policies can have a very real impact on your collection development practices. Without a policy you may face some of the situations:

Having a written policy means that you're covered in most situations. However it also means that you need to adhere to your own policies. A policy can smooth a possible confrontation between you and a parent, staff member, or an administrator. People know that they are being treated fairly and equitably when there are policies in place. A policy should reflect the school's philosophy and provide clear focus for materials selection and de-selection.

Like most documents, policies will evolve. However, they provide a frame of reference for decision making. Without a policy, you will have to reinvent the wheel with every concern or question. Policies also provide consistency over time. Although the collection and policies stay, the people may move on. Well-defined policies are of great help to a library media center newcomer. Finally, a policy can remove some of the subjective aspects of running a center.

eye means readRead the Guidelines for the Development and Implementation of Policies, Regulations and Procedures Affecting Access to Library Materials, Services and Facilities from the American Library Association.

"A school policy outlines the theoretical basis for the library resource centre and the role of the teacher-librarian, and provides a mechanism for the demonstration of accountability. An effective policy should form the basis for planning and decision-making in the school library. Ideally it should be used as a reference whenever changes involving planning and decision-making are made throughout the year." Tierney, .G & Whitney, M.( 1993).

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What kinds of policies do I need?

Your policies may fall under one document or they may be divided into areas.

A collection development policy provides a broad overview of needs and priorities of the users and is based on the goals of the media program and school. This broad policy may include:

A selection policy identifies the criteria by which materials are evaluated for inclusion in the collection and assigns responsibility for selection decisions. Sometimes this policy also encompasses the de-selection policy and the reconsideration procedures.

eye means readRead the Workbook for Selection Policy Writing from the American Library Association.

A de-selection policy describes the process of removing an item from the collection based on the selection policy.

A reconsideration policy describes the process followed in the event a person or group wishes to challenge the inclusion of an item in the collection.

An acquisition policy addresses the most efficient process for obtaining materials.

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What is included in a collection development policy and manual?

Many people create a collection development manual that includes policies, procedures, and evolving documents demonstrating the living nature of the program.

You'll want to answer the following questions in your collection development policy:

Introduction. Your document should begin with an introduction that describes the use of the document, scope of the policy, audience, and need for the policy.

Statement of Philosophy and Goals. Your document should contain a statement of philosophy and goals for the program. There is nothing wrong with getting ideas from others. For example, many centers include statements from the American Library Association.

This section should also provide an analysis of your patrons, collection, programs, and priorities.

Selection Policy. Your document should contain a selection policy that details specific selection criteria. It should answer the questions: how are materials selected and who will select them. It may also include a section on de-selection and handling gifts or donations. Within this section you may also want to list the patrons who use the center and detail the materials you have available in the collection to meet their needs. Results from your needs assessment may also be incorporated into the evolving policy in the form of short and long term goals.

Reconsideration Policy. You center should have a policy and procedure regarding challenged materials.

To learn more about reconsideration policies, explore the selection of this course called Intellectual Freedom.

Acquisition Policy. Your acquisition policy should discuss how materials are acquired. It may list popular jobbers and guidelines for making purchasing decisions. You may also include your acquisition procedures including step-by-step procedures, lists of needs, and the current status of selected materials.

Evaluation Policy. You may also wish to discuss evaluation of the collection. How will the collection be maintained and evaluated?

Related Policies. In some cases, the library media center collaborates with other departments on documents related to information, communication, and technology. Be sure to include the following documents in your collection development manual:

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What are some ideas for working with these documents?

Through experience, you'll find the most effective way to maintain and update collection development materials. The following guidelines will get you started:

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Is an up-to-date policy really necessary?

A "living" document that evolves as you and your program change is extremely useful. It's always up-to-date and ready for decision making. However your policy is worthless if it's stored in a drawer after being written. If it's not updated, it will probably need to be recreated from scratch somewhere down the road. It's much easier to constantly keep it up-to-date. Keep all materials a three-ring binder for easy access by the patrons and staff. However keep the master files in a secure network electronic folder.

People don't think they need a collection development policy until they face one of the questions posed at the beginning of this section. You're better safe, than sorry.

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Check Your Understanding

info power"Policy is not a goal or aim even though the latter may be implicit in the statements of policy, while specific objectives, as statements of outcomes, may often be set as part of policy implementation. Policy produces guidelines for the preparation of rules and procedures which are the first steps in policy implementation. They direct action and specify the individuals responsible for such action" (Caldwell, 1980).

Examine sample collection development policies. Identify the strengths and weaknesses in each policy. Brainstorm additional items that should be included. Describe elements that could be added to make a policy a "living" document.

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Make It Real

magazinesExplore the many policy resources on the Internet.

Create a personal pathfinder of materials that can be used as you design your own materials.



Read More About It

Guidelines for Writing Policies and Procedures

Collection Development Policies for School Library Media Programs from the Montana State Library.

Writing a Collection Development Policy from Idaho State University
Online course designed for members of the library community who do not have formal library training.

School Library Policies and Procedures

Lamar County School Library Media Centers Policies and Procedures (2005-06) (AL)

School Library Policies from the California Department of Education

Collection Development Policies

Collection Development Training for Arizona Public Libraries (2008)
Introduction to all aspects of library collection development including policies, acquisitions, evaluation, and weeding. Although designed for the small public library, it will be equally useful in the school library

Library Collection Management (1997, 2004) at Bellingham Public Schools, WA

Materials Collection Policy at Germantown Academy, PA

Collection Development Policy for School Libraries (2006) from Chicago Board of Education, IL

Selection Policies

Book and Audio Visual Selection at Portage la Prairie School Division, Manitoba, Canada

Policy and Procedures for Selection and Utilization of Instructional Materials, Media and Equipment (PDF doc) at Bibb County Public Schools, GA

Challenged Materials Policy
Challenged Materials Policy at Wamego High School, KS

Acceptable Use of Internet and Networks

Acceptable Use Policy at Xavier High School, WI.

Policies at the Los Angeles Unified School District, CA.

Network and Internet Acceptable Use Policy at Orchard View Schools, MI.

Smith, Alastair. Criteria for Evaluation of Internet Information Resources. Department of Library and Information Studies, New Zealand.
This is a "toolbox" of criteria that enable Internet information sources to be evaluated for use in libraries, e.g. for inclusion in resource guides, and helping users evaluate information found.

Library Media Program Handbooks

Alabama's School Library Media Handbook for the 21st Century Learner (2008) at Alabama Department of Education

Alaska School Library Handbook
Online guide meant to help library staff maximize their work by providing information and references to many 'frequently asked questions.'

IMPACT: Guidelines for North Carolina Media and Technology Programs(2008) at North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Media Specialist Handbook at Hillsborough County Public Schools, FL

Winner, Matthew C. (2008) Library Media Center Procedure Handbook at Howard County Public School System, MD

Texas School Libraries: Standards, Resources, Services, and Students’ Performance (2001) from Texas State Library and Archives Commission

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