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Collections Development Policy

The Morristown Centennial Library's mission is to foster lifelong learning and personal fulfillment, encourage an enlightened citizenry, and promote personal enrichment and enjoyment within our community. The Library is committed to offering services and programs that respond to our community's wants and needs with the highest level of quality and responsiveness.

Selection of books, periodicals, and other media are made in such a way as to further this mission to the greatest extent practicable within budgetary and space constraints.

The Morristown Centennial Library subscribes to the principles of intellectual freedom as stated in the American Library Association's Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read and Freedom to View statements (see below).

Selection Principles

  1. Authority for the choice, cataloging and placement of materials ultimately rest with the Library Director. Other staff members may select, catalog, and place materials subject to the Library Director's approval.
  2. The Library Director and the Children's Librarian exercise professional judgment and expertise based on an understanding of community needs and wishes; their own knowledge of authors and publishers; and review of authoritative professional reviews, standard lists of basic works, recommendations of professional journals and bibliographic essays prepared by subject specialists.
  3. Recommendations and requests from the public are welcome and will be given careful consideration in terms of overall objectives and the existing book collection. If, in the Library Director's professional judgment, an item meets the criteria set forth below or the anticipated level of patron demand for that item otherwise justifies adding it to the collection, the Library will take steps to acquire the item. If not, the Library will use interlibrary loan to acquire the item for the requesting patron, if possible.
  4. The Library Director and the Children's Librarian will review the collection regularly to assess items' continued relevance and value to the collection and the public it serves, and will add to and subtract from the collection according the criteria set forth below.

Selections should be made with an eye to serving a diverse community of patrons with a wide variety of backgrounds, educational levels, and interests.

Nonfiction materials will be selected on the basis of:

  1. Circulation figures and other indicators of patron interest/demand/need in different subject areas
  2. Professional standards and recommendations regarding appropriate collection size and contents in various subject areas for a library the size of the Morristown Centennial Library
  3. Accuracy of information and quality of writing and editing
  4. Relevance to current subjects of public debate/controversy or concern
  5. Relevance, usefulness and lasting value as reference materials
  6. Relation to the existing collection and usefulness in presenting a diversity of information on issues
  7. Relative importance in comparison with other works on the subject
  8. Quality of presentation, format and binding
  9. Favorable review in established professional journals.
  10. The American Library Association's Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement
  11. Items of local or regional interest
  12. Cost and budget availability

Fiction materials will be selected on the basis of:

  1. Quality of expression (writing and editing), enduring literary value
  2. Significance of the item within contemporary culture and/or as a record of the times
  3. Circulation figures and other indicators of patron interest/demand/need in different literary genres, popularity of specific authors, and popularity of particular items with the public at large
  4. Quality of presentation, format and binding
  5. Favorable review in established professional journals.
  6. The American Library Association's Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement
  7. Items of local or regional interest
  8. Cost and budget availability

Audio and Video Materials:

The purpose of the Library's audio and video collections is to provide educational and recreational value to the community. To this end, our goal is to provide better-quality contemporary feature films and television series, classics, foreign or independent films, cultural programming (e.g., music, dance and dramatic theatre), and a wide variety of documentary (e.g., history, science, nature) and instructional releases. Videos are selected through reviews, catalogs, recommendations, personal viewing and a sense of their popular appeal.


The Library recognizes patrons have a diverse background, interests, and social values. So all patrons are free to reject for themselves any materials which do not meet their approval (freedom to choose). The Library does not select, retain or remove materials on the basis of anticipated approval or disapproval of any group of patrons, but solely on the basis of the standards stated in the policy. All patrons will have free access to materials (this covers all ages and type of material) and will not be inhibited by the possibility that the items may be utilized by minors.


The Library recognizes that full, confidential, and unrestricted access to information is essential for patrons to exercise their rights as citizens. The Library believes that reading, listening, and viewing are individual, private matters. While anyone is free to select or reject materials for themselves or their own minor children, the freedom of others to read or inquire cannot be restricted. The Library strives to maintain materials representing all sides of an issue in a neutral, unbiased manner. Selection of materials by the Library does not mean endorsement of the contents of views expressed in those materials. The existence of a particular viewpoint in the collection is a reflection of the Library's policy of intellectual freedom, not an endorsement of that particular point of view.

Children’s Access

The Library does not stand in loco parentis. Parents and guardians, not the library, have the responsibility of guiding and directing the reading, listening and viewing choices of their minor children.

Culling of Library Material

The deliberate, measured, regular evaluation of library materials in relation to the collection as a whole and the community at large is part of the library's standard procedure.

The same criteria used in selecting materials apply to the systematic removal or replacement of outdated, inaccurate, no longer useful, seldom used or worn items. Each withdrawal or replacement should be judged by standard library tools to determine its retention value as a "classic," as part of the overall collection, or its current usefulness.

The authority for final withdrawal of materials rests with the Library Director and the Children's Librarian.

Materials withdrawn from the collection may be given to other libraries, sold for the benefit of the Library, or discarded.

Challenges to Library Materials

If a challenge is made to inclusion of an item in the collection, the Director will discuss the challenge and this policy with the person requesting withdrawal. If the complainant is not satisfied with the Library Director's explanation, he/she must make a written request using the “Statement of Concern about Library Resources” form, stating in detail the basis for his/her objection to inclusion of the item in the Library's collection. The Library Director will bring the request to the attention of the Board of Trustees for consideration at its next regularly scheduled meeting, and the complainant shall be given notice of that meeting.

At that meeting, the Library Director will present the basis for inclusion of the item in the collection vis-a-vis this policy, as well as information concerning general acceptance of the material as reflected in reviews and professional recommendation lists. The Board of Trustees will have an opportunity to review the written request for withdrawal and either the specific portions deemed objectionable or the entire work, as appropriate; the request may be tabled until the next regularly scheduled meeting of the board if necessary to provide an adequate opportunity. The Library Director and any Trustees who have viewed relevant portions of the work in question will then vote on inclusion of the item in the Library's collection in accordance with this policy and the American Library Association's Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement (incorporated by reference above). The item will remain in circulation pending the Board of Trustees' decision. The Board of Trustees' decision will be final.


Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 18, 1948, by the ALA Council; amended February 2, 1961; amended June 28, 1967; amended January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 24, 1996.

The Freedom to Read Statement

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.

These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.

Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.

Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.

We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate, in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of offerings.

The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

We therefore affirm theses propositions:

  1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.

    Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.
  2. Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.

    Publishers and librarians serve the educational process by helping to make available knowledge and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They do not foster education by imposing as mentors the patterns of their own thought. The people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or government or church. It is wrong that what one can read should be confined to what another thinks proper.
  3. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.

    No art or literature can flourish if it is to be measured by the political views or private lives of its creators. No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.
  4. There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

    To some, much of modern expression is shocking. But is not much of life itself shocking? We cut off literature at the source if we prevent writers from dealing with the stuff of life. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare the young to meet the diversity of experiences in life to which they will be exposed, as they have a responsibility to help them learn to think critically for themselves. These are affirmative responsibilities, not to be discharged simply by preventing them from reading works for which they are not yet prepared. In these matters, values differ, and values cannot be legislated; nor can machinery be devised that will suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.
  5. It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.

    The ideal of labeling presupposes the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by authority what is good or bad for others. It presupposes that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. But Americans do not need others to do their thinking for them.
  6. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.

    It is inevitable in the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral or the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to determine for themselves what they wish to read and each group is free to determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further, democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or self-censorship.
  7. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a “bad” book is a good one, the answer to a “bad” idea is a good one.

    The freedom to read is of little consequence when the reader cannot obtain matter fit for that reader’s purpose. What is needed is not only the absence of restraint, but the positive provision of opportunity for the people to read the best that has been thought and said. Books are the major channel by which the intellectual inheritance is handed down, and the principal means of its testing and growth. The defense of the freedom to read requires of all publishers and librarians the utmost of their faculties, and deserves of all Americans the fullest of their support.

We state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.

This statement was originally issued in May of 1953 by the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, which in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute to become the Association of American Publishers.

Adopted June 25, 1953, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee; amended January 28, 1972; January 16, 1991; July 12, 2000; June 30, 2004.

The Freedom to View Statement

  1. To provide the broadest access to film, video, and other audiovisual materials because they are a means for the communication of ideas. Liberty of circulation is essential to insure the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.
  2. 2. To protect the confidentiality of all individuals and institutions using film, video, and other audiovisual materials.
  3. 3. To provide film, video, and other audiovisual materials which represent a diversity of views and expression. Selection of a work does not imply agreement or approval of the content.
  4. 4. To provide a diversity of viewpoints without the constraint of labeling or prejudging film, video, or other audiovisual materials on the basis of the moral, religious, or political beliefs of the producer or filmmaker or on the basis of controversial content.
  5. 5. To contest vigorously, by all lawful means, every encroachment upon the public’s freedom to view.

This statement was originally drafted by the Freedom to View Committee of the American Film and Video Association (formerly the Educational Film Library Association) and was adopted by the AFVA Board of Directors in February 1979. This statement was updated and approved by the AFVA Board of Directors in 1989.

Endorsed January 10, 1990, but he ALA Council

Policy approved 7/8/10