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  • Writer's pictureLynn Lovegreen

How do libraries choose books?

stacks of books on a large bookshelf

As you probably know, I’m a big library supporter. My parents were readers, took us to the local library often, and my mom volunteered in our school libraries, so I had early exposure to libraries. I went on to be a teacher, library patron (customer or reader) and volunteer. That means I sometimes forget what I know about libraries that others may not. Today’s post is one way I can bridge that gap.


In recent surveys sponsored by EveryLibrary Institute and Book Riot*, American parents showed they overwhelmingly support libraries. Here’s a few stats:

·       93% of parents believe their child is safe using a school library

·       90% of parents feel comfortable allowing their children to select their own materials from the library collection

·       85% of parents are satisfied with the work librarians do


And most parents support diverse collections of books:

·       89% of parents believe that books should be diverse and reflect multiple communities (57% agree and 32% somewhat agree)

·       Further, 86% of parents believe children’s book characters should be diverse and reflect many experiences

·       87% believe that teenagers should have access to a wide range of books in their school library, including on complex and controversial subjects and themes


But the survey also showed that most parents do not know how librarians select materials for the collection (81% of parents in the school library survey and 53% in the public libraries survey). I can help with that one—please read on.


When you go into a library, you see hundreds or thousands of books on the shelves. How did they get there? By a careful process called collection development or collection management. Librarians read lists of new or published books, some from patron requests and some from other sources. Then librarians determine if the books are a good fit for their collections. They learn more about the books by reading reviews by expert reviewers (such as School Library Journal or The Horn Book for kids’ books) and look into what other librarians say about those books.


Which books make the grade to the next step? Maybe some books fill requests that library patrons are making, or they fill a gap that should be filled to make sure that a variety of books are available. Librarians read the most promising books on their lists and evaluate the books by criteria. For example, is the book relevant to the interests and needs of the community? What is the current or historical significance of the author or subject? Is the readability and style appropriate for their library patrons?  If all those things lead to the decision to buy a book, then they go through the purchasing process to do so.


Want to know the collection policy of your local public or school district library? Find the collection development or collection management policy on their website. When you’re done, look at their online catalog and find your next favorite read. Libraries rock!


*Three related surveys were conducted in September 2023. See the reports at:


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