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Collection Development Policy

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Collection Development Policy

The Collection Development Policy offers guidance to Library staff in the selection and retention of materials for the Santa Monica Public Library and serves to inform the public and other interested persons of the Library’s philosophy for selection and collection maintenance.

The mission of the Santa Monica Public Library is to provide resources, services and a place to encourage the community to Read, Connect, Relax and Learn.

The guidelines are based on the Library’s Mission and the long-established principles of the Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read Statement, and Freedom to View Statement as adopted by the American Library Association.

Library and Community Profile

The Santa Monica Public Library consists of one Main Library and four neighborhood branches that serve a residential population of 90,223 (2012) in an 8.3 mile square area.

The population of Santa Monica has a median age of 40, with 36 percent of the residents between the ages of 25 and 44. Fourteen percent is under 18 years, and another 15 percent is over 65 years. Forty-eight percent of households are single-person and 71 percent are occupied by renters. The City has a generally well-educated population, with 64 percent having a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Main and branch materials are listed in a single online catalog, materials can be readily transferred between locations, and cardholders can use all locations and materials, including electronic formats.

Collection Objectives

The Santa Monica Public Library provides a contemporary, relevant collection of resources in a wide range of formats to meet the informational, educational and recreational needs of its community. The Library strives to meet these needs within the limitations of space, staffing and budget.

The Library is a popular materials collection with added breadth and depth in the area of local history. Materials and formats are not maintained past their relevance. This ensures a collection of current interest to our patrons. Textbooks and materials of a highly technical or specialized nature more appropriate for research or special libraries are generally excluded from the collection.

Responsibility for Selection

Ultimate responsibility for materials selection rests with the City Librarian who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Library Board. The City Librarian delegates major responsibility for materials selection to the Principal Librarians.

Guidelines for Materials Selection

Collection development is based on these specific criteria:

  • Community needs, interests, and demands
  • Significance and compatibility of the work to the collection
  • Recommendations of reviews from professional journals or publications of national repute
  • Reputation and qualifications of the author, illustrator, publisher, or producer
  • Availability of other information on the subject
  • Literary, artistic, historical, scientific, or intellectual merit
  • Suitability of format
  • Price and availability for purchase
  • Author or creator already has popular works in the collection
  • Significance of the author’s work to the Santa Monica area
  • Suitability of subject and style to intended audience

The importance or weight of each of these factors will vary from one acquisition to another, others may be considered, and materials for adults, teens, and children will each be judged differently.

All cardholders, regardless of age, have the right to access all materials in the Library and to borrow any circulating item. Parents and legal guardians have the responsibility to monitor the use of library materials by their children. Selection of library materials for adults is not limited by the possibility that children may come in contact with them. The Library does not act in loco parentis and is not responsible for inadvertent viewing at the library.


The Library only accepts materials in usable condition. All gifts become the sole property of the Santa Monica Public Library upon receipt and cannot be returned. The Library reserves the right to decide whether donated items are added to the collection and to determine the conditions of display, storage, and access.

All gift materials added to the collection must meet the same selection criteria as purchased materials. Gifts not added to the collection are given to the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library for sale in their bookstore. Proceeds from the Friends Bookstore directly benefit the Library.

Gifts can be acknowledged with a written receipt that lists the number and type of material donated. However, the Library cannot legally make a determination of value of the donation or act as an appraiser (The Tax Reform Act of 1984, Sec. 155a). The Library maintains the right to refuse donations at any time.

Local History and Image Archives Gifts

Photographs, slides, ephemera, pamphlets, maps, or other archival materials relating to the history of Santa Monica and the surrounding area may be added to the Library’s collection on the approval of the City Librarian, Principal Librarian for Reference Services or the Image Archives Librarian. Gifts will be evaluated according to their relevance to the history and development of the Santa Monica Bay area, as well as the Library’s ability to physically preserve them and make them available to the public. Images selected for inclusion in the collection are stored archivally and made available to the public online. Images which have restrictions placed on their use will not be accepted.

Gift Subscriptions of Periodicals and Giveaway Publications

Gift subscriptions to periodicals and giveaway publications are submitted to the Periodicals Committee for approval and are subject to the same selection criteria as paid subscriptions. Gift subscriptions chosen to be added to the collection require a three year subscription.

Collection Maintenance

To maintain the quality and relevance of the collection, the Library regularly withdraws materials that are worn, outdated, superseded, or obsolete. Space limitations require that duplicate copies no longer in demand also be discarded.

As materials become worn, damaged, or lost, replacement will be based on whether or not:

  • The item is still available
  • There is ongoing demand or need
  • Another item or format might better serve the same purpose
  • Updated, newer or revised materials would better replace a given item
  • The item has historical value in this or another library based upon mission and guidelines
  • Another library system could better provide the item or a comparable item in the future

Requests for Reconsideration of Materials

The Library carefully investigates and considers suggestions from patrons to consider the removal or reclassification of any material in the Library collection. Patrons may challenge materials by completing a Library Suggestion Form, which is reviewed by the City Librarian and routed to appropriate professional staff for evaluation. A report of the final determination is sent to the patron.

About the Collections


The adult fiction collection consists of a wide variety of contemporary fiction from all genres, international works in English translation, and classic literature, with emphasis on new popular and bestseller titles. The adult nonfiction collection contains works that provide basic knowledge on essential or intriguing topics and consists of works written for a general readership.


The periodicals collection consists of current, popular titles and selected historical holdings considered to be essential for the purpose of responding to the community’s broadest informational, education, and recreational needs. The core list of newspapers includes major local Santa Monica newspapers, regional newspapers (e.g. The Los Angeles Times), and major national newspapers (e.g. The New York Times).

The children’s periodical collection includes titles for babies to eleven year olds. The teen periodicals collection emphasizes entertainment and recreation for ages 12 to 18.

Children’s Collection

The children’s collection provides materials in a variety of formats to satisfy the informational, recreational, cultural, and educational needs of children, from babies and preschoolers through children in elementary school grades. Materials are selected with regard to the stages of emotional and intellectual maturity of children. The collection includes early literacy formats that target the importance of reading aloud to children during the first five years. The collection also provides adults with materials that aid in the study of children's literature.

Formats in the children’s collection include board books, picture books, beginning readers, graphic novels, paperbacks, fiction, nonfiction, magazines, music CDs, read-along kits, DVDs, audiobooks and other electronic formats.

Teen Collection

The teen collection supports the educational and recreational needs of middle school and high school age teens (12 to 18 years old). The collection includes popular reading titles as well as school-assigned classics and informational nonfiction titles.

Formats in the teen collection include fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, paperbacks, magazines, audiobooks and other electronic formats. Teen DVD titles are shelved in the adult area.

Parenting Center Collection

The Parenting Center at the Main Library offers materials on general parenting, health issues, and educational topics. The collection includes therapeutic books that support children who need to process difficult personal events such as divorce, death, new siblings and other similar topics. The majority of material will be appropriate for parents to share with their child, but some may be addressed to parents or others who work with children.

Formats in the Parenting Collection include fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and DVDs.

World Languages

The World Languages collection contains materials written in Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. Active collection is limited to those languages most in demand by Library clientele and/or spoken in our community and does not necessarily include those spoken by the majority of the world’s population or in any way reflect on the importance of any language to the culture or development of a civilization.

Other Print Materials

Large Print materials are primarily designed for use by patrons with visual impairments. The collection consists of popular fiction, mystery, and classic titles. Nonfiction comprises roughly a quarter of the Large Print collection. The collection is not comprehensive due to the limited availability of these books.

The Library also maintains a selected collection of California Topographic Maps with an emphasis on Southern California.

Local History Collection

Materials on California history and local Santa Monica Bay area history, which may include ephemeral, scholarly, and specialized items excluded from the regular print collection, are collected. The Library attempts to develop a comprehensive collection documenting local history. Local government documents are selectively retained; the Library does not attempt to serve as the City archive.

Digital Collections

The Library maintains a collection of historic images and other materials likely to be of historic value of the Santa Monica Bay area. The collection is primarily acquired through gifts, but materials may be purchased if determined to be appropriate to the collection. Historic materials may be digitized and included in the Library’s online digital collections.

The electronic resources collection includes online subscription databases, downloadable audiobooks, downloadable electronic books (eBooks), streaming media, and authoritative links to Internet information. The Library favors electronic sources which are device and platform neutral, which use open and/or public file formats, and which support the traditional legal principles of first sale and fair use.


The audiovisual collection includes digital video discs (DVDs), audio compact discs (CDs), unabridged audiobooks on CD (Library editions), and multimedia kits. Emphasis is on current popular titles, established artists, and educational interest topics. Audiovisual materials complement the Library’s other collections and public programs.

Foundation Center Collection

The Library is a cooperating collection of the Foundation Center. The Foundation Center Collection includes a core group of foundations and grants directories and manuals published by the Foundation Center. As part of the core collection, the Library also subscribes to two databases, the Foundation Grants to Individuals Database and the Foundation Directory Online Professional Database. These databases are available at the Main Library only.

Sustainable Santa Monica Collection

Partly supported by the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, the Library makes a special effort to purchase materials in all relevant subject areas to complement the City’s strong commitment to sustainability. The City of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan defines sustainability as “meeting current needs - environmental, economic, and social - without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.” Sustainability materials are interfiled in their respective subject areas but can be found by searching the Library’s online catalog for “Sustainable Santa Monica Collection”.

Adopted by the Santa Monica Public Library, 29 April 2011, updated 21 April 2014

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