Collection Development

I. The Policy

The Madison Public Library Collection Development Policy provides a framework for the growth and development of collections in support of the Library’s mission to “promote lifelong learning by creating welcoming spaces that offer collections and services to inform, inspire, enrich, and entertain.”

It is the Library’s goal to provide a diverse Madison community with library materials that reflect a wide range of views, expressions, opinions and interests. Specific acquisitions may include items that may be unorthodox or unpopular with the majority or controversial in nature. The Library’s acquisition of these items does not constitute endorsement of their content but rather makes available its expression.

The Library provides free access to materials in a number of formats (print, media and electronic) to all customers. Library users make their own choices as to what they will use based on individual interests and concerns. Madison Public Library supports the right of each family to decide which items are appropriate for use by their children. Responsibility for a child’s use of library materials lies with his or her parent or guardian. Madison Public Library adheres to the principles of intellectual freedom, adopted by the American Library Association, as expressed in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read and Freedom to View Statements.

II. About the Library and Its Community

Madison is a city with a unique culture.  It’s home to a world-class university, a growing bio-tech industry, the seat of state government, and a growing and increasingly diverse population—culturally, linguistically and ethnically.  Madison is a highly educated community and people in Madison make good use of their public libraries.  Still, challenges remain.  Families in poverty are a concern—43% of children in the public schools qualify for free lunch.  The number of people whose first language is not English and the issues of early literacy and school readiness require targeted public library collections and services.

The Madison Public Library consists of a Central Library, eight branches and a mobile library service. As well as serving the needs and interests of people who live and work downtown, the Central Library provides extensive, in-depth collections and centralized support for library services throughout the City.  The Central Library is also the resource library for all public libraries in the seven-county South Central Library System, all of which have access to the more than 500,000 general, specialized and historic items in its collection.  The branch libraries provide collections and a full range of services to the people in their immediately adjacent neighborhoods; they also attract substantial use from a larger geographical area, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on their unique circumstances of site, convenience and access.

III. The Collection

Madison Public Library’s collection of approximately one million books and other media provides a wide range of literary, cultural, educational, informational and recreational materials for people of all ages. Collections include popular and in-demand materials as well as special formats, such as large print books, government documents, foreign language materials, test and study guides, financial, tax and business information, company and telephone directories, school and career information, consumer, health and medical information. In addition, the Local Materials Collection preserves and documents the history of Madison and Dane County and provides a broad scope of information about local news, events and businesses.

The variety of formats collected include: 

  • Print: books, documents, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and maps. 
  • Audiovisual Media: videos on DVD and tape, books on CD and tape, music on compact disc. 
  • Electronic Media: databases, software, electronic books, downloadable audio books, videos and music. The library also provides access to the Internet. Selected Internet sites are cataloged and linked to the Library’s website. 
  • Other: multimedia kits, microforms, framed art prints, educational toys, devices for the visually impaired, and selected audiovisual equipment.

IV. Criteria for Selection

General criteria for selecting library materials are listed below. An item need not meet all of the criteria in order to be acceptable.

  • public demand, interest or need,
  • contemporary significance, popular interest or permanent value
  • attention of critics and reviewers
  • prominence, authority and/or competence of author, creator or publisher
  • timeliness of material
  • relation to existing collections
  • statement of challenging, original, or alternative point of view
  • authenticity of historical, regional or social setting
  • accessibility for multiple users of electronic formats

V. MPL Website

The Madison Public Library website provides a link to LINKcat, the on-line catalog of materials and to other electronic resources. It also offers links to subject-focused websites recommended by professional staff. In linking other websites to its home pages the Library follows the selection criteria cited above. Beyond this, the Library has not participated in the development of these other sites and does not exert any editorial or other control over these sites. Any link from the Library’s website to another website is not an endorsement from the Library. The Library does not warrant that its website, the server that makes it available, or any links from its site to other websites are free of viruses or other harmful components. Internet use policy

VI. Responsibility for Selection

Responsibility for the initial selection of library resources rests with the Library’s professional staff, based on the criteria cited above. Designated staff are responsible for specific areas of the collection, under the overall direction of the Collection Development Coordinator. The responsibility for selection ultimately rests with the Library Director operating within the framework of policies determined by the Board of the Madison Public Library.

VII. Suggestions for Additions to the Collection

To assure the acquisition of resources desired by Library users, customer suggestions are always considered for their addition to the collection. Customers can request that specific items be purchased by filling out a Recommendation for Purchase form online or at any Madison Public Library location.

VIII. Collection Maintenance, Replacement and Weeding

Professional library staff regularly review items in the collection to ensure that they continue to meet customers’ needs. Materials that are worn, obsolete, unused, old editions or unnecessarily duplicated are removed. It is the responsibility of professional staff to assess the need for replacing materials that are damaged, destroyed or lost. Items are not automatically replaced. Decisions are based on need, demand and budget.

IX. Gifts 


Madison Public Library accepts gifts of new or gently-used books, magazines, DVDs, and music or books on compact disc. Decisions on whether and how donated items will be added to the Library’s collections are based on the same evaluative criteria that are applied to purchased materials. 


With rare exceptions, we do not return items that are given to us. Items that are not added to the collections are given to the Friends groups supporting Madison Public Library.

X. Request for Reconsideration of Materials

The Library welcomes citizens’ expressions of opinion concerning materials purchased. Requests to remove materials will be considered within the context of the policies set forth in this document. Anyone who wishes to request that a specific item be reconsidered for inclusion in the collection of materials is asked to complete and sign the Request for Reconsideration Form, available at any Madison Public Library location. The form will be forwarded to the appropriate staff –the Collection Development Coordinator for adult materials and the Youth Services Coordinator for children’s materials, who will consider the request in a timely fashion, in consultation with the Director. The questioned material will be reviewed, in its entirety, and once a decision has been made regarding the retention or removal of the material, a letter will be sent to the person, explaining the decision. If the person indicates dissatisfaction with the resolution, he/she may appeal to the Library Board. The Board will reconsider the decision based on whether or not the particular title conforms to the Board-approved Collection Development Policy, as outlined in the “Criteria for Selection,” above.

(Approved by Library Board July 10, 2008)