Selection and Withdrawal of Materials

The Seattle Public Library strives to inform, enlighten, and empower every person in our community. The Library and its board of trustees uphold the democratic right to freely express their thoughts and ideas, both popular and unpopular. We support the right of each individual to privately read, listen, and view the full range of published thought and ideas.

In support of these ideals the Library offers a collection of materials that is diverse, inclusive and protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I of the Washington State Constitution. The Library Board endorses the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and all interpretations pertinent to the selection and use of library materials.

Policy Statement

Objectives of the Collection
The Library is responsible for providing materials to patrons of all ages, backgrounds, and opinions. The Library collection taken as a whole will be an unbiased and diverse source of information, representing as many viewpoints as possible. Subjects will be covered in sufficient depth and breadth to meet anticipated and expressed individual and community needs.

The collection is presented to provide individual access to information and materials in various formats, and to serve a wide variety of needs:

  • To enhance humanity and the enjoyment of life according to the full exercise of free choice.
  • To assist in developing the skills and abilities needed for economic success.
  • To develop the social awareness and knowledge needed for self-government and successful participation in a diverse community.
  • To encourage and enhance personal, artistic, and intellectual growth.
  • To educate and to inform.
  • To promote the joy and fun of reading.

The Library neither encourages nor discourages any particular viewpoint. No material will be excluded because of the race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political or social views of the author. Selection of materials by the Library does not mean the Library endorses the contents or the views expressed in those materials.

The Library Board recognizes that Library resources are not unlimited. Selection of materials must be consistent with budget allocations. Resource sharing with other libraries, as well as electronic and other methods of information access, are valid and necessary ways of meeting patron needs.

The responsibility for the collection rests with the City Librarian as authorized by the Library Board. Direct selection of library materials is performed by staff members qualified for this duty by education, training, interest and job classification.

Factors considered when adding specific material to the Library collection include, but are not limited to:

  • Collection objectives
  • Present collection composition
  • Current or historical significance of author or subject
  • Timeliness
  • Public interest
  • Level of demand
  • Audience for material
  • Community relevance
  • Diversity of viewpoint
  • Effective expression

The nature of the media and the technical quality of production are additional factors to be considered in selecting audio, video, electronic, and other non-print formats. Internet sites linked from the Library's homepage are subject to the same selection criteria as other materials.

The Library Board recognizes that full information on issues of public concern may require access to information sources which exemplify those concerns. Individual items, which in and of themselves may be controversial or offensive to some patrons or staff, may appropriately be selected if their inclusion will contribute to the balance and effectiveness of the Library collection as a whole.

The Library encourages public suggestion of items and subjects to be considered for the collection. Serious consideration will be given to purchasing patron-requested materials when these requests meet collection objectives. Remaining requests may be met through resource sharing with other libraries, electronic retrieval or other means.

Gift items are subject to the same selection criteria used for purchased materials.

The Library Board considers reading, listening, and viewing to be individual, private matters. The Board believes that full, confidential, and unrestricted access to information is essential for patrons to exercise their constitutional rights. While anyone is free to select or reject materials for themselves or their own minor child(ren), the freedom of others to read or inquire will not be restricted. Only parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to guide and direct the reading, listening and viewing choices of their own minor child(ren). The Library does not stand in the place of parents (in loco parentis).

The Library collection will be organized, marked, and maintained to help people find the materials they want. Any labeling, sequestering, or alteration of materials because of controversy surrounding the author or the subject matter will not be sanctioned.

Constitutional Protection
The Library Board considers all materials selected under this policy to be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Washington State Constitution.

If a court having jurisdiction over Seattle Public Library decides that any material in the collection is not constitutionally protected, such material will be removed. Material under court consideration will remain available to patrons until a final court ruling is made after all appeals are exhausted.

Collection Review
The Library Board recognizes the right of individuals to question the inclusion of materials in the Library collection. The Library will give serious consideration to each patron's opinion.

Patrons questioning material in the Library collection may ask Library staff about such material. The staff person in charge of the library at the time will discuss these concerns and give the patron a copy of this policy.

Individuals who wish to continue questioning library materials may state their opinion in writing on a form provided by the Library. The form will be sent to the City Librarian who will refer it to an appropriate Library staff member or committee in order to review the patron's concern and the material in question. A Library staff member or committee will provide a recommendation as to whether the material was appropriately selected and made accessible under this policy.

The City Librarian will review the recommendation, make the final decision, and reply to the individual in writing.

Persons still wishing to express concerns to the Library Board about materials in the collection will be heard during a regular meeting under the agenda item "Public Comment" or at another time designated by the Library Board for public expression. The Library Board, after receiving testimony from the public and from the City Librarian, will decide whether the Library's actions are in accordance with Library policies. If the Library's actions are determined to be in conflict with Library policies, the Library Board will direct the City Librarian on another course of action.

Withdrawal of Materials
The Library Board recognizes that withdrawing materials from the collection is an important part of maintaining the Library collection. Withdrawal of Library materials is a responsibility vested in the City Librarian who may authorize qualified staff members to assist. The Library's withdrawal policy shall be based upon the same factors as the selection policy.

This policy applies to all materials considered for selection for and/or withdrawal from the Library's collection.

Related Laws, Policies and Procedures
Board Policy, Intellectual Freedom.

Current version supersedes Selection and Withdrawal Policy adopted Jan. 22, 2002.

Adopted: April 22, 2015
Supersedes Policy: Selection and Withdrawal Policy adopted Jan. 22, 2002