A collection development policy is arguably the most important document a Christian school library needs. The policies and procedures outlined in a collection development policy guide the school and the librarian in making decisions regarding purchasing, challenged materials, and deselection of materials. A thorough collection development policy can also ease the confusion and fear that can appear when a parent or other school community member challenges the inclusion or removal titles in the library’s collection.
At minimum, a well-written collection development policy MUST contain the following sections:
Library Mission / Goals
A Christian school library’s mission and goals serve as the foundation for its selection criteria. If a library’s mission and goals are not fully articulated, the librarian has no standards by which to evaluate a potential purchase.
For example, if a school library’s stated mission is to support the school’s academic curriculum, then great value would be given to resources which directly support and enhance the projects, topics, and concepts being taught in its classrooms. However, if a library’s main stated mission is to foster a love of independent reading, then greater importance would be placed on purchasing high-interest titles that reflect students’ personal interests.
Once the library’s mission and goals are established, the librarian can then concentrate on selecting high-quality, age-appropriate materials that support those goals. Factors to consider include age, reading level, format (print vs. electronic), cost, awards and recognition, and quality of writing.
As important as it is to apply critical criteria to selection of materials, its equality important to give considerable thought to the deselection (removal) of materials.
There are several established systems of criteria and guidelines for removal of materials in libraries. However, the values and goals of a Christian school library may require slight modification of those systems. For example, a public school library may choose to de-select a tattered copy of an biography of missionary Amy Carmichael due to its physical condition and low student interest. However, a Christian school library might consider keeping the book (while repairing or rebinding it) because of its stated mission to help students develop a Christian worldview and understanding of Church history. The librarian would be sure to look for an updated replacement in better condition as soon as possible.
A Christian school library will almost certainly face a title challenge at some point. A title challenge occurs when a parent, teacher, or other school community member opposes the inclusion of a certain book (or electronic resource) in the school’s library. Most often, the challenge occurs because of controversial content such as language, sexual material, descriptions of magic or occult activity, or characters with negative attitudes.
A detailed description of how the school will handle a challenge provides crucial support to the librarian, the school, and the administration. It prevents the burden of decision from being placed on a single individual and ensures consistency in decisions.
Do you have other sections you’ve included in your collection development policy? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.