It is the Library Board’s role to “determine the contents of the collections of the library system” per Minnesota Statute 383B.239. This policy defines the scope of the collection and articulates the overarching principles which shape the development and management of the Hennepin County Library’s (the Library) collection. This policy guides the Library’s responsibility to select, acquire, make accessible, maintain and preserve the Library’s collection.

This policy establishes a process for addressing patron questions and concerns, and defines the roles and responsibilities for addressing those concerns.


The collection is one of the Library's major assets. It advances the Library’s mission to “nourish minds, transform lives, and build community together.” It helps create a future where every person has the opportunity and resources to read, graduate, engage, work and learn.

  • We, the Library Board, value intellectual freedom and the importance of an individual’s right to read, view, and listen to a broad spectrum of knowledge, ideas, opinions, and creative expression.
  • We embrace the diverse ways in which people learn and acquire information.
  • We believe the Library has a responsibility to be inclusive and not exclude materials solely because of the origin, background, or views of those who created it.
  • We value the role the Library plays as a repository of the community’s cultural heritage.
  • We recognize the importance of resource sharing with other libraries throughout the state and nation.
  • We expect the Library to be responsive to changing patron interests and demographics, follow professional standards, and stay abreast of the new and evolving ways information is created, disseminated, accessed and used.


The Library’s collection is the body of materials selected for and made accessible to library patrons.

“Materials” has the widest possible meaning and includes books and other print media, audiovisual, digital, and electronic formats. Materials may be owned or leased by the Library, housed in a physical location, downloaded, or accessed via the Library’s website.

“Selection” refers to the decision that is made by Library staff to add a specific item to the Hennepin County Library collection and make it accessible either in a physical location or via the Library’s website.

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored.

Collection Scope

The Library’s collection is designed to support the cultural, informational, educational, and recreational interests of the residents of Hennepin County. It reflects the interests of the general public and supports the demographics and diversity of the community of which it is a part.

The collection has materials on many topics and viewpoints. It has materials in different formats, languages, and levels of difficulty. It contains materials of contemporary, historical, and archival significance. The collection has a wealth of retrospective and archival books, local history documents, and digitized material.

The Library is a designated Patent and Trademark Resource Center and a member of the Federal Depository Library Program.

Access and Resource Sharing

Access to materials is ensured by the way they are organized, managed, and displayed. The Library uses standards-based cataloging and classification systems.

Patrons access the collection via the Library’s catalog, the Library’s website, and through their interactions with staff. Items located at one library location may be requested for pick up at a more convenient Hennepin County Library location. The Library’s outreach services enable greater access to the collection.

Use limitations ensure fair and equitable access to materials. Access to some items may be limited by their rarity, value, uniqueness, fragile physical condition, or a combination of these factors. In-house and remote access to digital and electronic resources is provided within technical, budgetary, and licensing constraints.

Items that are not in the Library’s collection may be obtained on behalf of the patron from another library system via established interlibrary loan networks. Conversely, Hennepin County Library’s materials may be lent to other organizations that also participate in the networks.

The Library collaborates with the following organizations to ensure the widest possible access to library materials:

  • Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA)
  • Minitex, an information and resource-sharing program of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the University of Minnesota Libraries
  • OCLC, a worldwide cooperative that supports the acquisition, cataloging and lending of library materials
  • Minnesota Library Access Center
  • Minneapolis Athenaeum.

Intellectual Freedom

The Library provides an impartial environment in which individuals and their interests are brought together with the universe of ideas and information spanning the spectrum of knowledge and opinions. Individuals apply their personal interests and values to the materials they choose for themselves. The values of one may not be imposed on another. Parents and legal guardians have the responsibility for their child's or ward’s use of library materials.

The Library’s selection of materials for the collection does not constitute an endorsement of the content. Library materials are not marked or identified to show approval or disapproval of the contents, nor are materials sequestered except for the purpose of protecting them from damage or theft.

The American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read, and Freedom to View statements support intellectual freedom and are adopted policies of the Hennepin County Library Board. In addition, the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A provides additional guidance on this subject.

Roles and Responsibilities

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approves Library funding, which includes funding for the collection. Additional funding support is provided by the Friends of the Hennepin County Library, local Friends of the Library groups, trusts, and other donations.

The Library Director works under the direction of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and within the framework of this policy. The Library Director delegates to staff the authority to interpret and apply this policy in daily operation.

Staff in a centralized work unit provide continuity for the development and management of the Library’s collection. They plan, budget, select, acquire, catalog, process, and manage library materials. The Library recognizes and respects intellectual property rights and conforms to legislative mandates regarding copyright protections.

Staff in each library participate in collection development and management. They:

  • Engage in open, continuous two-way communication with patrons and other staff
  • Handle all requests equitably
  • Work in partnership with one another to understand and respond to patron needs
  • Understand and respond to rapidly changing demographics, as well as societal and technological changes
  • Recognize that materials of varying complexity and formats are necessary to serve all members of the community
  • Balance individual and community needs
  • Seek continuous improvement through ongoing measurement.

Patrons also play a key role in the development of the Library’s collection. They make suggestions and provide feedback via the Library’s website or directly to staff.

Selecting Materials for the Collection

Patron interest, both expressed and anticipated, is a driving force in the materials and formats that are selected. Materials are also selected to ensure that the collection as a whole contains materials on many different topics, that there is a choice of materials or formats on the subject, and that multiple viewpoints are expressed.

Collection development staff use a set of criteria to guide selection decisions. Not all criteria are applied to each selection decision.

General criteria for selection:

  • Patron requests
  • Present and potential relevance to community needs
  • Format options
  • Physical design is suitable for library use
  • Subject and style is suitable for intended audience
  • Publicity, critiques, and reviews
  • Importance of the item as an artifact
  • Historical significance
  • Price of material
  • Relevance to current trends and events
  • Relation to the existing collection
  • Potential appeal.

Content criteria for selection:

  • Competence, reputation and qualifications of author or publisher
  • Consideration of the work as a whole
  • Currency of information
  • Objectivity and clarity
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Technical quality
  • Represents a diverse point of view
  • Representative of movements, subjects, genres or trends of lasting patron interest
  • Artistic presentation and/or experimentation
  • Sustained interest or demand
  • Usefulness of the information
  • Relevance to local history collections
  • Provides unique contribution to a field of study.

Additional considerations for electronic formats:

  • Ease of use
  • Available to multiple, concurrent users
  • Remote access
  • Technical and support requirements
  • Vendor data privacy practices
  • Not restricted by location.

Reconsideration of Library Materials

Individuals may request a selection decision to be reconsidered by submitting a written “Request for Reconsideration of Materials” to any Hennepin County library using established Library procedures and guidelines, available at any library service desk. Library Administration responds in writing to an individual's written request.

The Library Board, upon request, hears appeals of the Library’s response. Appeals must be presented in writing to the Library Board at least ten (10) days in advance of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board. Decisions on appeals are based on careful review of the objection, the material, and Library Board policies including: this policy, Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read, and Freedom to View. The final decision on appeals rests with the Library Board and will be taken up at publically held Board meetings.

Collection Maintenance

Physical materials are distributed and maintained in libraries and community partnership locations throughout Hennepin County. Electronic formats are maintained on the Library’s website.

The collection is reviewed and evaluated on an ongoing basis in order to maintain its usefulness, currency, and relevance. Items may be kept, redistributed, repurchased, withdrawn, or preserved for long-term retention.

Staff rely on a set of criteria to guide their decisions to withdraw items from the collection:

  • Format or physical condition is no longer suitable for library use
  • Content is available in multiple formats
  • Obsolescence – information that is no longer timely, accurate, or relevant
  • Insufficient use or lack of patron demand
  • Little or no relevance to current trends and events
  • No long-term or historical significance
  • Space limitations
  • Sufficient number of copies in the collection
  • Easy availability in other collections locally or nationally

Not all criteria are applied to each de-selection decision.

Withdrawn materials may be reused by the Library’s Outreach Services, donated to community partners, sold, or recycled.

Materials of long-standing value are preserved. Preservation methods used include the following: preservation photocopying, preservation enclosures, digitization, replacement of content through the purchase of another edition, rebinding, repair, and use restrictions.

The Library has a number of special collections maintained at Minneapolis Central. Once determined to be a special collection, that collection as a whole is considered to be a permanent part of the Hennepin County Library collection. Removing a special collection will be considered if it does not advance the Library’s mission and vision, or if the Library no longer has the resources to house, manage, and maintain the collection. In order to remove a special collection, the Library Board would make a recommendation for its removal subject to the approval of the County Board.

Items associated with the Patent and Trademark Resource Center or the Federal Depository Library Program are maintained in accordance with the terms of those partnerships.

Associated Policies and Laws

This policy is subject to all federal, state, and local laws and policies including, but not limited to:


This policy is reviewed every four (4) years by the Library Director (or designee) and the Library Board Policy Committee. The Committee revises the policy as needed, endorses, and advances to the full Library Board for approval.

Policy History

Next Review Date: 08/2019

Last Reviewed/Revised Date: 08/19/2015

Date Adopted: 08/24/2011