Introducing the New Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit

Office for Intellectual Freedom, Policies

By: April Dawkins
Almost two years ago, I was asked to join a group of librarians from public, academic, and school libraries to work on updating the American Library Association’s Workbook for Selection Policy Writing. The workbook was created in 1998. I think all of us involved were aware of the need of an update. There were two big issues which made the old workbook need an update: It reflected a view of libraries that was almost entirely print or text-based, and it was designed as a guide for writing policies for school libraries only.

The Process

Beginning in February of 2016, a group of six people representing academic, public, and school libraries began to meet virtually to create the new Toolkit. Working virtually is always a challenge and is especially difficult when you are writing content and discussing policies that could potentially impact many libraries. It was slow going to start and over time some members of the group stepped back and others came on board to assist. We had additional input from others including members of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, staff from the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and also from the academic, public, and school librarian communities.

The Toolkit

The “Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, and Academic Libraries” was completed in December and is now available online. Additionally, if you would like to purchase a print copy of the Toolkit, you can do so through the ALA Store. (Coming Soon!)

I think you will find the new a useful tool to begin a review of your own selection and reconsideration policies. It is organized into four main sections: (1) an introduction which helps to explain why a library needs these policies, (2) the components of a selection policy, (3) procedures for reconsideration, and (4) an appendix which includes the core intellectual freedom documents and additional resources.

What I believe is the most helpful addition to the new Toolkit is its inclusion of sample text for each type of library which can be adapted for each library’s unique characteristics. I also find the navigation in the online version of the Toolkit much easier with the content clearly organized. In the old version, everything was on one webpage. You might find that you need assistance in explaining why you might include controversial materials in your collection. This is easily found in the new version of the toolkit. You’d simply navigate to the Policies on Selecting Controversial Topics section. There you’ll find general information on that topic, an introduction for your specific type of library, and then sample policy language that can be adapted for your library.

Another addition to the Toolkit that I think is helpful are the review resources found in the Selection Criteria section of the Toolkit. For each type of library, we included what we felt were the top five review resources for materials selection, but then we also included a terrific table of additional review resources. It has over 100 review resources for all three types of libraries.

Some Things to Remember

Every library and every community a library serves is different. The sample policies and this toolkit are intended to guide you through the process in updating or creating your selection and reconsideration policies. Use this toolkit as a springboard for discussion about what will serve your patrons, community, and library best.

As a group, we didn’t always agree on everything. This is why it is so very important that you use this Toolkit as a starting point for developing your own selection and reconsideration policies.

Want to Learn More

If you are attending the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver in February, the core team who worked on the toolkit will be having a panel discussion during the Symposium on the Future of Libraries. Join us for our one-hour session, “The Front Lines of Intellectual Freedom: Protecting Your Pages with Policy.” The session will be held on Saturday, February 10, from 3-4 p.m. in Room 404 of the Colorado Convention Center. Each attendee will receive a print copy of the Toolkit.


April DawkinsApril Dawkins is an assistant professor in the Library and Information Studies department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In May 2017, April completed her Ph.D. at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. Her research focus for her doctoral dissertation was understanding the factors that influence decisions around selection in school libraries and the role of self-censorship. Prior to her doctoral studies, April served for 15 years as a high school media specialist in North Carolina. She is also a past president of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. April also serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. Find her on Twitter @aprldwkns.


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