Collection Development Policy



This document describes the purpose and nature of the library’s collection and gives guidance and direction to library staff for collection development and maintenance. The Collection Development Policy will be re-evaluated and revised as necessary by OPL Collection Management librarians and Library Management.

Mission Statement and Goals

The mission statement of the Oakland Public Library is: "Your Oakland Public Library empowers all people to explore, connect and grow."

The Library acts to fulfill its mission by selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, maintaining, and providing access to a collection of materials and electronic resources that address the needs of Oakland’s diverse and complex communities in a timely manner. The Library’s collections provide general reference resources as well as information and entertainment. The collections affirm and uphold the public’s rights to intellectual freedom and access to the full range of information and ideas. They seek to be sensitive to the expressed needs and concerns of the community.

Institution and Clientele

The Oakland Public Library is made up of a Main Library, 16 neighborhood branches, an adult literacy program, a Tool Lending Library, and the African American Museum and Library of Oakland. The Library’s primary service area is Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont. The Library is also used by residents of the wider East Bay community.

Overview of Collection

The Oakland Public Library’s collection includes books, CDs, DVDs, periodicals, microforms, online materials and more. The Library collects in multiple languages. Current collection development emphasizes popular works, basic reference and academic support. The Library’s collection is non-archival, with the exception of the Main Library’s Oakland History Room and Government Documents Repository, and the African American Museum and Library at Oakland.

Individual branch collections reflect the interests and needs of local communities. Many branches have collections in Spanish, and several collect Asian languages. The map, music score, and government document collections are unique to the Main Library. The Main houses the largest DVD, CD, audiobook, magazine, and newspaper collections in the system.

The Library offers our patrons access to a greatly expanded collection via its interlibrary loan service, including Link+. The Library also provides service electronically on a 24-hour basis via its online catalog, website, subscription databases, and a collection of e-media that currently includes e-books, eaudiobooks, video, music and periodicals. The Library’s e-resources are available to anyone present in the library, and offsite to the Library’s cardholders via the library’s website and vendor websites and apps.


Standards for Selection

Collection development decisions are made on the basis of staff judgment, expertise, knowledge of what is already in the collection, and by evaluating reviews in library review journals and other library selection tools.

The Library selects materials on a variety of criteria including:

  • Demonstrated or perceived community interest, need or demand by Library users or potential users
  • Contemporary significance or permanent value
  • Relevance to the experience and contributions of diverse populations
  • Quality, including accuracy, clarity and usability
  • Significance and/or reputation of the author and/or any other contributors
  • Relation to existing collections
  • Format, durability, and ease of use
  • Value of resource in relation to its cost

These criteria are applied as appropriate across all subjects, languages, material types, and formats.

Works are not excluded because of frankness or coarse language. In each case, the material is judged on the volume as a whole, not by detached excerpts. On controversial questions upon which there are divergent points of view, the Library policy is to provide factual material on all sides as far as availability permits. Significant works may be acquired or retained despite features that may be objectionable to some residents.

The Library does not purchase the following types of material: costly books of little demand, collectibles, textbooks (unless they are of general interest and the best in the subject field) or family genealogies. Abridged, expurgated or condensed materials are generally not acquired.


Gifts are evaluated with the same criteria as purchased materials. Acceptance of donated items is subject to the discretion of the appropriate selector in conformity with library selection standards. Gift materials not added to the collection are not returned to the donor. Unused gifts may be offered to the Friends of the Oakland Public Library for public sale, discarded, or disposed of in some other way.

Collections of donated materials may not necessarily be kept together as a group, and the Library may not be able to accept gifts with this requirement. The Library cannot be responsible for the appraisal of gifts for income tax or any other purpose. The Library will provide a receipt describing number and type of donated material.

Requests for Reconsideration

Persons raising an objection to a book or other materials in the library will be asked to provide a written explanation of their objections, citing specifics from the material in question. The supervisor of the unit receiving the complaint will refer the Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form to the Collection Development librarian who will appoint a committee composed of selectors whose expertise or reading background is related to the material in question. The committee will evaluate the material and compose a report with recommendations for action for the Library Director. If requested, the Director will respond to the individual or group making the request.

OPL Request for Reconsideration

Intellectual Freedom Statement

The library neither approves nor disapproves of the views expressed in materials included in the collection. The inclusion of an item is not to be considered an endorsement, official or otherwise, by the library. Selections for the library will not be made on the basis of anticipated approval or disapproval, but solely on the merits of the material in relation to building the collection and serving the needs and interests of users, and in accordance with this policy. Materials are not marked or identified to show approval or disapproval.

The library endorses the principles of the Freedom to Read and Freedom to View Statements and the Library Bill of Rights adopted by the American Library Association.

Collection Management

The ultimate responsibility for materials selection resides with the Library Director. Under the Director, selection is delegated to the professional staff. Staff collection management decisions reflect the Library mission statement and the standards and principles in this document.

The collection needs continuous evaluation in order to be sure that the Library is fulfilling its mission to provide material in a timely manner to meet patrons’ interests and needs. Statistical tools such as circulation reports, collection turnover rates, and hold fill rates are studied to determine how the collection is being used and how it should change to answer patron need.

The Library encourages involvement by the community in the selection process. Several mechanisms are provided for this purpose, including analysis of pending reserve requests, purchase suggestions submitted by library users, and questionnaires and surveys administered by the Library. User suggestions for purchase are evaluated in accordance with the standards for selection.


Systematic deselection is required to keep the collection responsive to patron needs, to ensure its vitality and usefulness to the community, and to make room for newer materials or newer formats. The deselection process identifies materials that are damaged, out of date, or no longer used. Deselection also helps the Library evaluate the collection by identifying areas or titles where additional materials are needed, older editions that need to be updated, and subjects, titles, or authors that are no longer of interest to the community. If Library staff is uncertain about a title to be withdrawn, standard bibliographic tools are consulted to see if the title has historical or literary value.


Materials that have been lost or damaged may be replaced using the same criteria as for selection. Other factors considered when deciding on replacements include the number of copies the Library system owns, the availability of newer materials on the subject, the number of duplicate copies, existence of adequate coverage of a field, other similar materials in the collection, and demand for and intrinsic value of a specific title.

Adopted by Oakland Public Library, January 2017


ALA 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 A Joint Statement by: American Library Association and Association of American Publishers.

ALA 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 guarantees of freedom of expression.
  1. To protect the confidentiality of all individuals and institutions using film, video, and other audiovisual materials.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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.
  1. 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.
  1. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  1. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  1. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  1. 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. Amended February 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980, inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996, by the ALA Council.

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