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Material Selection Policy

Objectives of the Library

The Billerica Public Library provides free service to all individuals in the community, both children and adults. Its objectives include the provision of expertly selected materials in various formats to aid the individual in the pursuit of education, information, pleasure, or research, and in the creative use of leisure time. The Library embraces its role as a community resource by providing materials that meet the varied needs of community members who have different backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, and worldviews.

To achieve these ends, the Library provides educational, instructional, and readers’ advisory services to adults to support a continuous learning process. It also provides special service to children and young people and seeks to direct and stimulate these readers by offering them a carefully selected collection of books and other materials, as well as skilled individual guidance.

Careful consideration is given to the introduction of new formats to Library collections. Budget considerations, community needs, and the probable impact on existing resources are all reviewed before items are selected and introduced to collections in a new format.

The selection of material in any new format may result in the Library’s decision to retire specific items or material formats from its collections in order to responsibly accommodate trends in user demands and/or changes in technology.

The Library provides service to all, within the context of library objectives, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, disability, socio-economic status, or any other legally protected status.

Basic to the Library’s Material Selection Policy is the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, and Freedom to View Statements adopted by the American Library Association. These can be found in the policy appendix.

Responsibility for Material Selection

The Board of Library Trustees considers and adopts a Material Selection Policy, which they authorize the Library Director to administer. The Director designates staff to help develop selection, management, and acquisition procedures and to make purchasing decisions in accordance with the Materials Selection Policy. The Director allocates the materials budget annually.

Criteria for Selection

“Material” is defined in the broadest possible context. The key criteria is useful content not form. The objective of material selection is to provide those print and non-print materials that meet the standards of good literature and to collect other library materials that will inform, entertain and contribute to an appreciation of good literature, as well as, those materials which meet the needs and interests of the library user.

Library materials are selected by the Director and by staff designated by the Director. Competent and authoritative reviewing media and basic lists of standard works are consulted as an aid in selection. Serious consideration is given to recommendations by library users for materials to be added to the collection.

Within the standards of purpose and quality, the Library’s collection will be built to meet the needs and interests of the community. Every print and non-print selection is subjected to the following criteria as they are applicable:

  1. Current interest and usefulness
  2. Permanent value
  3. Relevance to the library’s mission and core values
  4. Comprehensiveness in scope
  5. Importance as a record of the times
  6. Relevance to the existing collection
  7. High standards of quality in content, format etc.
  8. Authority and competence in presentation

Material Selection for Children

The same principles that guide the selection of materials as stated in the adult materials selection policy are applicable to the selection of materials for children. The Billerica Public Library cooperates with the school libraries so that the services of the two agencies may complement each other. It recognizes that it is the function of the school library to furnish curriculum-related materials, whereas, the public library provides a more comprehensive collection.

The children’s collection is carefully selected, by professionals trained in children’s literature, for children of all ages and abilities, with emphasis on materials to stimulate imagination and help in the development of a taste for good literature, as well as, stimulating a taste for reading, in general.

Materials for young people are selected to help teenagers to know and understand the world at large and to aid them in becoming mature and knowledgeable adults.

Use of Library Materials

The Library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some patrons. Selections will be made not on the basis of any anticipated approval or disapproval, but solely on the merits of the work in relation to building a broad based collection and to serving the interest of library users.

Library materials will be not be marked or identified to show approval or disapproval of the contents, and no catalogued book or other item will be sequestered, except for the express purpose of protecting it from injury or theft.

The use of rare and scholarly items of great value may be controlled to the extent required to preserve them from harm, but no further.

Responsibility for the reading, viewing and listening of children rests with their parents and legal guardian. Library materials selection will not be inhibited by the possibility that items of a controversial nature may inadvertently come in to the possession of children.

Scope of the Collection

The Library takes cognizance of the collections of neighboring libraries and of regional and national resources and will not needlessly duplicate services and materials. Every effort is made to locate and borrow from other libraries, through Interlibrary Loan, those specialized materials that are beyond the scope of the Library’s collection.

Textbooks are not ordinarily purchased by the Library except in those subject areas where material in another form is not conveniently available.

The Library acknowledges a particular interest in local and state history, and in the works of local authors. The same standards of selection are applicable.

Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials

Billerica residents or property owners with objections to specific items in the Library should direct their complaints to a staff person. If the complaint is unresolved, the resident or property owner may file a fully complete “Request for Reconsideration of Library Material Purchase or Display” form with the Library Director. Billerica residents or property owners may only file one request at a time and must wait until their request has been decided before they can submit another request. The Director will review the item and the completed form to assess whether the item meets the selection criteria described in this policy. This process may take up to 30 days, and a decision will be provided in writing. Materials that meet the selection criteria will not be removed from the collection because of pressure by any individual or group. The decision made by the Library Director may be appealed to the Library Board of Trustees within 30 days. The Library Trustees require that all appeals be in writing. Once the review process is complete and a decision has been made on a particular item, that item will not be reviewed again for five years. 

Display of Library Materials

The library regularly displays collection materials to draw patron’s attention to the variety of topics covered and to the assortment of formats offered by the library’s collections. It is hoped that displays help patrons discover materials that are of interest to them.

Topics of displays generally reflect upcoming library programs, national and local awareness campaigns, staff recommendations, popular authors, bestsellers, and/or current events.

When selecting a topic for a display, the library makes every effort to uphold its values by selecting and presenting topics in such a way that we:

  • Uphold our commitment to ensuring that all patrons feel welcome and treated with respect and dignity
  • Provide reliable, timely, useful, and accurate information on the topic
  • Support lifelong learning, education, and a love of reading
  • Serve as a center that connects people through inclusive topic selection

Billerica residents or property owners with objections to a library display should make their objections known by filing a fully complete “Request for Reconsideration of Library Material Purchase or Display” form with the Library Director. Billerica residents or property owners may only file one request at a time and must wait until their request has been decided before they can submit another request. The form will be reviewed by the Director, who will decide whether to remove the display according to the values outlined above. This process may take up to 30 days, and a decision will be provided in writing. The decision made by the Library Director may be appealed to the Library Board of Trustees within 30 days. The Library Trustees require that all appeals be in writing. 


The Library welcomes gift books, materials and other items of a permanent nature with the understanding that it will be evaluated in accordance with the criteria and objectives by which purchased materials are judged. When the Library receives a cash gift or something along the lines of a memorial, the selection will be made by the Director in consultation with the donor. The name of the donor or person memorialized may be entered or attached to the item as is fitting.

Maintaining the Collection

The same criteria will be used in deselection or “weeding” materials from the collection as is used in the acquisition of materials. The goal of weeding the collection is to maintain an up to date, relevant and attractive collection. Deselection is done on a regular basis by the selectors. The library makes every reasonable effort to see that deselected materials are disposed of in the most appropriate manner.

Criteria for deselection:

  • Changing needs and interests of the community
  • Outdated information
  • Number of circulations
  • Availability of similar materials in the collection
  • Physical condition and age of the item
  • Appearance on standard lists
  • Available shelf space
  • Availability at other local libraries
  • Obsolescence of format

Deselected items will be:

  • Given to the Friends of the Library or donated to other organizations/businesses
  • Recycled or destroyed, if condition warrants

Material Donations

All material donations go to the Friends of the Billerica Library. Selectors may choose to acquire some items donated to the Friends for the library’s collection. The Friends and/or Library retain the right to sell, donate, recycle, or discard any donated item at any time.

Revision of the Policy

This statement of policy will be revised as times and circumstances require.

*Parts of this policy were adapted from similar policies at the Reading (MA) Public Library, Luicus Beebe Memorial Library (Wakefield, MA), Wilmington (MA) Memorial Library, and Hopkinton (MA) Public Library.

 Revised and adopted by a vote of the Board of Library Trustees on May 3, 2021, as amended on April 4, 2022, and June 5, 2023


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.

I. 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.

II. 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.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. 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.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; January 29, 2019.

Inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

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 these 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.

Freedom to View Statement

The FREEDOM TO VIEW, along with the freedom to speak, to hear, and to read, is protected by the  First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In a free society, there is no place for censorship of any medium of expression. Therefore these principles are affirmed:

  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. To protect the confidentiality of all individuals and institutions using film, video, and other audiovisual materials.
  3. To provide film, video, and other audiovisual materials which represent a diversity of views and expression. Selection of a work does not constitute or imply agreement with or approval of the content.
  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. 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, by the ALA Council

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