2023 was the year of controversy at Hamilton East Public Library (HEPL) regarding their book collection policy that defines how books are shelved within the library. While some changes had been made to the policy to address book challenges and reviews, in 2023 the library hired a lawyer to make changes that would allow them to move books the board majority at the time considered questionable without risking Constitutional violations and lawsuits. With $20,000 spent in legal fees (an amount that had been capped a previous HEPL board meeting, it would have been closer to $27,000 spent.
The result of the policy change at the beginning of the year was thousands of books being reviewed and a process that was resulting in thousands of books being shifted from the Teen Zone of the library to the general (adult) section. This change caused controversy and national press on the library.
As the year comes to a close, the board has had a number of members change and the collection policy was paused and as of the December 21 HEPL board meeting, ratified with most of the new sections removed. That puts the policy back to what it was with changes that were made in 2022, but without the explicit definitions of what needed to be moved based on sexual content, profanity, racism, and violence. Rather, the policy aligns more with national rules.
The updated policy with the paused additions removed was ratified on December 21st by the board. You can find the policy on the HEPL website. The following is a copy of the ratified HEPL policy (ads added by website and are not a part of the policy):
COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT POLICY
The Board of Trustees of the Hamilton East Public Library (the “Board”), the governing body of the Hamilton East Public Library, Hamilton County, Indiana (the “Library” or “HEPL”) establishes policy for the selection and maintenance of library collections. The Board recognizes that within our communities there are groups and individuals with diverse interests, backgrounds, and needs and that the Library
exists to serve all residents within our service area and those with HEPL library cards (“patrons”)
Access to information is a fundamental right of citizenship with that right guaranteed to adults and to children, protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and parents are the ultimate decision-makers for children and patrons under 18 years of age. It is the responsibility of parents and/or guardians to monitor and guide their own children in the use of Library collections. No library materials which meet HEPL’s selection criteria shall be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to its creation. The Library will develop a broad collection that meets the community’s needs for information, education, and entertainment in a variety of formats. The Library will be responsive to public suggestions of items and subjects to be included in the Library collection.
ROLE OF PARENTS
Parents should be aware that children have access to all materials in the Library. Library staff do not monitor or censor the reading selections of children. It is the responsibility of the parent to monitor their child’s access to materials while in the Library. We encourage parents to accompany minor children while at the Library.
Parents or legal guardians have the right and responsibility to determine what is appropriate for their own children. The Library relies on parents to be involved with their child’s use of the Library and to guide their child’s selection of library materials in keeping with their family values.
The Board affirms that parents and legal guardians know what is best for their own families. Parental involvement is highly encouraged in the selection of all library content for minors of any age.
Materials are selected to support the HEPL mission to be our community’s essential connector of people to information. The Board, the Library Director, and the HEPL staff strive to ensure that library collections represent broad community values and standards through the following strategies:
- Library staff work to develop broad collections that meet the expressed and anticipated needs and interests of the communities we serve while also building collections that will be of enduring value.
- Library collections include materials in which all members of the community may see themselves, and we work to ensure that there is something for everyone in our collections.
- For children and teens, the Library will work to ensure that collections are age appropriate in topic and placement of materials. The criteria for making these placements are discussed below. Patrons should understand some children’s books may reside in the general collection and may not be found in children’s areas. All titles can be found in the HEPL online catalog.
- The Library encourages opportunities for direct feedback from the community regarding our collections.
We base much of our selection on a wide variety of review sources because we believe that reviews provide the best way to evaluate the quality of an item. However, we broaden the collection by seeking out additional titles in areas that are not well covered by review media and by responding to requests from patrons and staff.
While the above philosophy informs acquisition and collection maintenance for all HEPL collections, certain areas have additional guiding criteria as outlined below:
- The TeenZone collection includes materials published for middle and high school students. The collection is leveled into distinct Middle School (6th-8th grades) and High School (9th-12th grades) collections to attempt as much as possible to address the unique emotional, intellectual, and social maturity of middle and high school age adolescents. All general selection criteria apply, with additional weight given to titles that appear on school reading lists and works that reflect diverse views on age-relevant topics. In recognition of the development and varied educational pursuits of high school students, nonfiction resources for this audience are interfiled with the Library’s general nonfiction collections.
- The Indiana Room provides current and archival materials that focus on Hamilton County and Indiana history. Materials by national and local authors, as well as research materials and databases, are included.
- Ignite Studio strives to be responsive to makers’ needs and curiosities. Formal requests for additional tools, materials, and equipment can be placed in Ignite Studio by completing a visitor feedback card or submitting comments via our website. Staff will track and respond to requests as appropriate.
- Online databases, eBooks, and other digital resources are provided by HEPL to broaden patrons’ access to information. In cases where individual titles are selected by HEPL, the same selection criteria used in the acquisition of print materials apply to online materials. In other cases, the Library provides subscription access to a collection or database curated by a third-party vendor. The labeling and organization of online collections are largely determined by vendors.
The following selection criteria inform acquisition decisions. They are intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive and are deliberately flexible. Each title is evaluated against these factors (either individually or in combination) before deciding to purchase or decline. The nine basic Selection Criteria are:
- Current and anticipated needs and interests of the public
- Evaluations in review media by a balance of viewpoints
- Accuracy and timeliness of content
- Author’s, artist’s, or publisher’s qualifications and/or reputation
- Contribution to diversity or breadth of collections
- Presentation of unique or controversial points of view
- Receipt of or nominations for major awards or prizes
- Quality of production
Current and anticipated needs and interests of the public
We strive to have the materials patrons want when they want them. This includes bestsellers, information on timely topics, and specific local interest. Materials judged to be too specialized or in low demand can be requested through interlibrary loan.
Evaluations in review media
Peer reviews in industry standard journals and the popular press bring titles to our attention and help us assess how well an item may serve our communities. The list of sources used for reviewing a book will be made available to the public and board upon request.
Accuracy and timeliness of content
We are committed to providing accurate, current information to our patrons. We rely on reviews, publisher’s and/or author’s reputation (balanced from a variety of sources), and in some cases staff review with final approval by the Library Director, to assess accuracy and currency of materials added to the collection.
Author’s, artist’s, or publisher’s qualifications and/or reputation
With few exceptions, works by bestselling and well-known authors, directors, or musicians are selected. Purchase of self-published works or those from small presses will require that the item make a strong contribution in another way, such as an outof- print classic, continuation of a series, award winner, or special title, such as for the Indiana Room collection.
The Library does not consider author solicitations for the purchase of new materials; however, it will accept donations. Donated books are subject to usual evaluation procedures, and a selector or selection committee will decide how the item best serves the collection. Donating a book does not guarantee inclusion in the Library’s collection. Once an item is donated to the Library, it becomes Library property for the Library to use as the collection team sees fit. Financial donations
to HEPL for collection development will neither entitle the donor to direct the purchase of specific materials or titles nor guarantee the inclusion of items in the Library’s collection.
Contribution to diversity or breadth of collections
We work to have broad cultural and subject coverage. The breadth and depth of the collection will reflect the interests of our diverse and ever-changing community. In order to provide a broad collection, we may choose to limit the number of titles within one subject area.
Presentation of unique or controversial points of view
We provide materials that support diversity of thinking and connect our patrons to information from many points of view.
Receipt of or nominations for major awards or prizes
We consider regional and national awards in all formats. These titles connect our patrons to the greater literary and informational communities. In the case of some state awards, we provide copies of all nominees.
Quality of production
The physical or technical caliber of illustrations, covers, bindings, recording, printing, or packaging will be a factor in deciding to purchase or decline. Also, such illustrations may impact the placement of items due to explicit depiction of sexual intercourse or genitalia.
In combination with other criteria or alone, items with significantly high prices will be scrutinized in order to balance the need for the item against the high price. This also guards against high replacement costs for patrons if items are damaged or lost.
HEPL patrons will find a high-quality collection consisting of current, reliable information, a broad range of titles of lasting value, and appealing choices in recreational reading, listening, and viewing for all ages.
The HEPL Collection:
- Reflects a wide range of viewpoints, needs, and interests in a variety of formats
- Provides an adequate number of copies to meet patron demand
- Responds to local community needs and interests
- Supports the educational needs of youth, teens, and adults
In order to maintain a current, reliable, and appealing collection, we weed items that are outdated, no longer in demand, physically worn out, or whose purpose is better served by online resources. Weeding is a continually ongoing process. Weeding is completed based on these criteria without regard to viewpoint’s expressed in the material.
Periodically we employ collection refreshment, the purchasing of new materials to replace weeded, missing, damaged, or outdated items. Together, weeding and collection refreshment ensure that patrons and staff can easily find materials that they want on the shelf and in the catalog and that Library resources are reliable and up to date. Not all items can or will be replaced due to availability or current demand. Similar materials will be ordered if possible.
HEPL strives to be responsive to the information and reading needs of patrons. If the Library does not have a desired item in its collection, any cardholder may request the item for purchase or interlibrary loan through the Library’s website here. These suggestions will be considered using standard selection criteria and the requestor will be notified when and if the item is available for borrowing. Any book purchased from these requests will be reviewed and placed in the appropriate location in the Library.
Requests for Reconsideration
The Library welcomes feedback from the community to ensure that our collections reflect community values and standards. Any patron may provide suggestions for materials to add breadth and/or depth to the collection. Additionally, patrons may bring to the Library’s attention resources that may be offensive or inappropriate, and any patron has the right to request that material in the Library’s collection be reconsidered. The criteria used to review potential replacement within the library are the same criteria used for the original placement.
Any patron who wishes to request that a specific item be reconsidered for inclusion within a specific collection/ location of the Library may complete the Request for Reconsideration Form available online here or at any library location.
First, the request will be reviewed by the Director along with the manager and the selection librarian from which the item is in the collection. The material remains in the collection during this review. The material will be reviewed in its entirety and not on portions taken out of context. The Director shall respond to the request in writing within six weeks of receiving the request.
If this response is not acceptable to the requestor, the Board will appoint a review committee to read, view, or listen to the material in question. This committee will consist of three members: one will be a librarian on the Library staff, one will be a current Board member, and one will be a local citizen who is not affiliated with the Library and will be appointed by the Board. This committee will have reasonable time to read, view, or listen to the material in question. The committee will meet to consider the request and to make a formal recommendation to the Board. The Board will consider the review committee recommendation and the original request and will make a final determination. This is essentially a 3-step process should the patron request further examination of the material in question.
Approved by Hamilton East Public Library Board of Trustees—October 2014; revised May 2018; reviewed June 2021; revised December 2022; reviewed January 2023; reviewed/revised April, 2023; certain sections suspended August 2023; revised November 2023; ratified December 2023.