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Collection Development Manual 2009
Circulating Collection Selection

Selection Criteria


Since it is impossible to examine and evaluate each item available for selection, librarians depend on reviews to help in the selection process. The selectors are knowledgeable about review sources and their particular strengths, weaknesses and biases. At least one favorable review is usually necessary for selection. If the first review is not definitive, the selector usually waits for more reviews, or bases the selection decision on some of the other selection criteria outlined here.


Some items are selected by evaluating the actual items in retail outlets like New England Mobile Book Fair, local bookstores, music stores, and museum book shops, and determining their suitability for their intended audience.


The author's qualifications and previous publications are important in selecting both fiction and nonfiction. For audiovisual materials, the expertise of the performer (reader, conductor, actor, director, musician, etc) is paramount.


The format should be appropriate for library use. This means books must have durable bindings, clear print and good paper. Workbooks and books with perforated pages are generally avoided. Book club and some reprint editions are frequently of inferior quality and are not added to the collection unless they are important items and higher quality editions are not available. Audiovisual items should be tough enough to stand up to the heavy demands of library circulation.


The date of publication in not a factor in recreational reading and in titles of literary merit and wide audience appeal. However, informational publications must be timely, and titles even two years old may not be selected because they will not remain accurate long enough to justify their cost. See sections on weeding for guidelines as to timeliness.


Adult fiction titles in considerable demand because of extensive publicity, local interest, author popularity, or other factors are usually purchased, even if the title did not receive good reviews. Adult nonfiction titles in demand are also usually purchased, unless there are serious questions about the accuracy of their information or the qualifications of the author.


Although series are selected on a title by title basis, if the library has purchased previous titles in a series, and those titles have been popular, the selector will be inclined to buy others in the series. Ideally the library maintains all titles in very popular series, but this ideal is difficult to achieve.  Consortium sharing is depended on to fill gaps in our series holdings.


Purchase decisions are based on the type and quality of the edition. The following are the basic types of editions available:

  • New: printed from new plates, or one in which changes have been made to the original content
  • Reprint or reissue: a new printing from unchanged plates, sometimes of a quality inferior to the original
  • Trade: a hardcover edition printed for and supplied to the book trade
  • Text: published for classroom use (contains questions, annotations, etc). Generally, the library prefers trade editions to text editions
  • Trade paperback: better quality paper and binding than mass market editions. Often printed with the same plates as the hardcover edition
  • Mass market paperback: designed to appeal to a large market, usually lower priced and of poorer quality than trade paperbacks
  • Book club: Usually of inferior quality than a trade edition, and suitable for personal not library ownership
  • Limited: a special edition signed by the author, or otherwise designed to attract collectors. Generally, not of interest to the library
  • Library: a specially bound edition, that is of superior quality and will last longer. Suitable for children's books and classics
  • Abridged: some part of the book has been deleted -- to lower costs, censor material, or simplify the text for a different audience. The library avoids abridgements, regardless of intention. An exception to this "rule" is audiobooks (see section on audiobooks).
  • Print on Demand: generally a paperback edition that is printed and bound when someone needs a copy. Can be a specialized book, midlist or backlist title, or self-published "vanity" title. Production quality can be from poor to archival quality.

Audiovisual Issues

The number of audio titles selected in comparison to the number produced is much lower than is the case with books. In popular music, the recreational interests of library users is a primary consideration. For classical music, the quality of the recording as determined from reviews, and the need to adequately represent certain classical genres are important selection issues. For audiobooks, the expertise of the reader and the sturdiness of the media and packaging is paramount. For feature films, recreation is the primary consideration. For "non-fiction" DVDs, reviews are important to identify quality titles. For more information on these formats, see the appropriate section in the body of this manual.


Publishers tend to establish expertise in certain fields, and this is taken into consideration in evaluating a title, especially one for which reviews are not available. Selectors try to be familiar with publishers and their specialties, but this is harder and harder to do in an age of mergers and takeovers. Some publishers in each field produce titles of such quality that selection decisions can be made solely on the basis of the publisher. Conversely, some publishers who produce marginal works are avoided, unless a certain item receives excellent reviews. The library generally avoids vanity presses, where the authors pay publication costs and do their own distribution. Self-published and desktop publishers produce works of varying quality and are seldom reviewed. These items are generally not purchased, unless the subject is in high demand, and the book is examined and found to be of merit.


Price plays a role in selection. Price decisions are generally not made in the abstract, but in relation to the value of the item to the collection. However, to protect the patron, who is required to pay the cost of lost items, circulating items that cost over $75 are generally avoided. This means that expensive DVD and CDs on popular subjects such as sales and marketing are generally not purchased. With books, price limits mainly the selection of very expensive art books and some specialized professional texts. Often, the library will purchase a less-expensive trade paperback, rather than a very expensive trade hardback. Purchasing decisions are also affected by the discount the library will receive from our jobbers. Publications that are not heavily discounted (for example, traditionally, University presses and textbooks) and are also expensive are bought more sparingly than publications that are heavily discounted. As University presses produce more titles of general interest at more competitive prices, the library is increasingly purchasing more of them.


Each title considered for purchase is evaluated in terms of the library's present holdings. For example, If the library has sufficient titles in a certain area, the selector may not choose to add a new title, even though it has received good reviews. Alternately, the library may buy titles that are of somewhat marginal quality if nothing else is available on the subject.

Academic Titles

Many books are published that are too specialized, too narrowly focused, or too academic for our collection.  These books may have received excellent reviews, but do not meet the needs of the general audience that frequents a public library. Unless the content of the book is of local interest and generates significant local demand we generally do not purchase and add these titles to our collection.

Local Authors

Every attempt is made to acquire titles by local authors (Andover and the towns in the Merrimack Valley) that are published by mainstream publishers. Titles by local writers that are self-published are not added to the collection unless there is a compelling reason to do so (valuable local content, high local interest). 

Andover Writers

Local authors often donate their self-published books to the library.  If the donated book does not otherwise meet our collection development criteria, we will add the donated title to our collection with the call number Andover Writer. However, we will not purchase such titles, but will only add them if they are donated.

Print on Demand Self Published

Print on demand titles that are self-published, even though available via mainstream distributors, will not be added unless they meet the library's collection criteria.

Last updated: July 07, 2014
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