In Victoria and around the country, communities are having conversations and disagreements about books that are available in public libraries. This trend highlights a fact we librarians know firsthand: Choosing books for a public library is a multifaceted process. After all, every community has different needs, and every community is filled with people who have their own views about different kinds of books.
At the Victoria Public Library, we take great care in choosing books to meet our community’s unique needs. Book selection is one of the areas of coursework that is covered in library science master’s degree programs. There are seven degreed librarians here at the Victoria Public Library who, along with some of our more experienced library assistants, are each assigned to one or more subject areas. We learn about popular titles by reading Publisher’s Weekly and other trade publications. We also look at data from the U.S. Census Bureau, geographic information systems and other official resources so we can tailor our collection to our community’s demographics, beliefs, habits and interests.
For example, one of the subject areas that I oversee is religion (the 200s in the Dewey Decimal System). Because our community is mostly Christian, our collection primarily features books about Christianity, and these are the titles that tend to be checked out the most. However, we also offer books for residents who want to read about many other world religions. This is one way that we fulfill our collection development policy of serving “a wide range of views, opinions, and interests.”
Our library is a community resource, and we rely on feedback from residents to develop services. For example, our storytime activities that are tailored to different age groups (Baby Time, Toddler Time, etc.) were born out of conversations with parents who expressed interest in having more activities suited to children’s individual developmental needs.
We will actively seek out feedback this year as we develop a strategic plan for the library. The function of libraries is constantly evolving, and this long-range plan will help us identify the programs and services that residents want from their library. Stay tuned for more information about how to get involved. If you’d like to share feedback in the meantime, you can do so by filling out a comment card at the front desk.
If you know of a book that you’d like us to consider adding, you can fill out the “Request to Purchase” form at www.victoriatx.gov/library. If we are unable to add a book, we will set up an interlibrary loan so you can get it from a different library.
If you would like for a book in our collection to be evaluated for possible removal or relocation, you can fill out the “Re-Evaluation of Library Materials” form at www.victoriatx.gov/library. Re-evaluation requests are reviewed by myself and the management staff in charge of the relevant library section(s). We respond to all requests; if your request is denied, we will explain why.
If you are not satisfied with the library’s decision, you can appeal to the Victoria Public Library advisory board. The appeals process provides a system of checks and balances by letting residents seek further review from community volunteers who do not work for the City or the library.
We recognize that our residents have different ideas about which books are appropriate or objectionable. Our library catalog—which includes reviews, excerpts and other detailed information—is one tool you can use to learn more about a book before you read it. Many titles include suggested age ranges and target audiences. Of course, these are only suggestions, and they are developed by the publisher, not the library.
Our advisory board meets quarterly on the third Wednesday of February, May, August and November. We invite you to come by the library and see what is going on. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 361-485-3301 or email@example.com.
Dayna Williams-Capone is the director of the Victoria Public Library.