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Collection Development Policy

Purpose of Collection Development Policy

The collection development policy is intended to provide guidance, within budgetary and space limitations, for the selection and evaluation of materials which anticipate and meet the needs and interests of the Nashville community. The policy directly correlates the collection to Nashville Public Library’s (NPL) mission statement and defines the scope and standards of the various collections. 

As the community changes, NPL reassesses and adapts its collections to reflect new and differing areas of interest and concern. The collection development policy is periodically evaluated and revised as necessary to provide guidance for implementing changes in the collection.

NPL Mission, Vision, and Values 

Mission: Inspire reading, advance learning and connect our community. Vision: All members of our diverse community are empowered through limitless learning opportunities to enrich their lives.

We Value:

  • Extraordinary Customer Service
  • Love of Reading
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Innovation
  • Excellence
  • Inclusiveness

Philosophy of Selection 

In support of its mission "to inspire reading, advance learning and connect our community," NPL fully endorses the principles documented in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement of the American Library Association. NPL upholds the right of the individual to secure information, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to others. A balanced collection attempts to represent all sides of controversial issues as availability of materials, space, and budget allow. Selection is based upon criteria stated in this policy. Materials available in NPL represent diverse viewpoints, enabling residents to make the informed choices necessary in a democracy. All public libraries contain material that some patrons may find objectionable. Libraries may also omit from the collection materials that some patrons will feel are important. In either case, NPL has procedures that patrons may use for reconsidering or recommending library materials.

Responsibility for Selection 

The authority and responsibility for the selection of library materials rests ultimately with the Library Director. Under his/her direction, selection is delegated to professional collection development library staff. These decisions are made within the limitations of available space and funding, and within the scope of a written collection development plan. Materials will be selected based upon their value as a whole. Selection presumes liberty of thought and intellectual freedom within the bounds of reason and law. The general public and all library staff are encouraged to recommend materials for consideration.

NPL’s collection is developed through:

  • Engaging in open, continuous two-way communication with library users and recognizing that individuals have different ways of expressing their needs based on age, language, economic status, culture, or other characteristics.
  • Interacting with customers with understanding, respect, and responsiveness.
  • Handling all requests equitably.
  • Understanding and responding to rapidly changing demographics, as well as societal and technological changes.
  • Recognizing that materials of varying complexities and formats are necessary to satisfy diverse needs of library users.
  • Balancing individual and community needs in determining the best allocation of collection budget for acquiring or providing access to materials and information.
  • Seeking continuous improvement through ongoing data analysis and measurement. 
  • Reviewing the collection on a regular basis to identify areas of community interest that may need to be strengthened.

Selection Criteria 

All materials, whether purchased or donated, are evaluated according to one or more of the following standards. An item need not meet all of these standards in order to be added to the collection.

General Criteria

  • Contribution to the diversity and scope of the collection
  • Suitability of subject and style for intended audience
  • Requests by library users
  • Effectiveness and suitability of format in communicating the content
  • Relevance of format and content to the intended audience
  • Impact on materials expenditure plan
  • Popular appeal
  • Available space
  • Attention by critics and reviewers
  • Contemporary significance
  • Relevance to the needs and interests of the public
  • Accessibility of material
  • Physical Format
  • Quality of production 

Content Criteria

  • Authority
  • Objectivity
  • Clarity
  • Currency
  • Representation of diverse points of view
  • Awards or award nominations
  • Reputation or significance of one of the creators of the work
  • Published evaluations or reviews
  • Accuracy and timeliness
  • Consideration of the work as a whole
  • Sustained interest
  • Relevance and use of the information
  • Effective characterization
  • Authenticity of history or social setting

New or Emerging Formats 

NPL develops collections that include a comprehensive range of formats utilizing the unique capabilities and advantages of alternative, new and evolving technologies in delivering information and expressing creativity and ideas. Before adding new formats, the following criteria should be considered: 

  • Impact on equipment, staff, storage, and space 
  • Demand for format in community 
  • Durability of format for library use 
  • Technical quality of production or reproduction 
  • Compliance with industry standards and specifications 
  • Availability of adequate startup and continuing funding 
  • Capability for networked distribution, download and printing 
  • Suitability to be circulated or housed in a sturdy, safe and convenient manner 
  • Availability of technical support and staff training 
  • Accessibility of material 
  • Ease of use by customers and staff 
  • Ownership of product 

As new formats emerge, steps will be taken to phase-out duplicated and/or obsolete mediums. These steps include discontinuation of ordering new or replacement copies, redistribution, and removal of existing collections from within the system. The time frame and need for implementation of each of these steps will vary based on customer demand for product (as demonstrated by circulation statistics and customer requests), affordability, and availability of product from vendors.

Independently Published Material 

NPL is often asked to include items in our libraries that are written and/or published independently. This can include materials that are self-published and/or produced items published through a vanity press company. NPL looks for material with regional connections and collection relevance that will appeal to a wide audience. The best way to bring an item to the Library’s attention is through reviews. Review sources that specialize in independently published material include the following:

  • Foreword
  • Small Press Review
  • Independent Publisher 

A positive review in one or more of the library review journals, such as Library Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly or in the Sunday edition of the local daily paper will give an independently published book an improved chance for selection by NPL. Information regarding the material should be sent to NPL’s Collection Development Department. The following information should be included: 

  • A brief summary of the material 
  • Any professional reviews 
  • Intended audience 
  • Author background and contact information 
  • Publisher information 
  • Item description (price, ISBN, date of publication) 
  • Distributor(s) 
  • OCLC World Cat Record 

Preview copies will be treated as a donation and their disposition will be covered under our Gifts and Donations Policy.

Suggestions for Purchase

NPL strongly encourages input from the community concerning the collection. A suggestion for purchase procedure enables Nashville residents to request that a particular item or subject be purchased. All suggestions for purchase are subject to the same selection criteria as other materials and are not automatically added to the collection. It is the Library's intent that suggestions for purchase be used to help NPL in developing collections which serve the interests and needs of the community. You can make a material suggestion online.

Gifts and Donations

NPL welcomes gifts of books and other materials. NPL reserves the right to keep, discard, sell, or make other appropriate disposal of any books or materials that are donated as determined by its mission and needs. Staff members review all donated materials for potential addition to NPL’s collection. Materials may also be used to help the Friends of the Library hold successful book sales. Funds raised at these sales support valuable library programs and services. Donated material sold at book sales are not covered under this policy. 

NPL accepts gifts at any of our facilities in Davidson County. Customers are encouraged to call ahead. Books donated in boxes are most helpful. Metro Archives and Special Collections staff follow separate guidelines for accepting donations. NPL will accept donations to our circulating collection in like-new condition and in formats that we currently provide in our collection. However, we will not accept donations for the following: 

  • Audio CDs, music CDs, movies in VHS format 
  • Textbooks (except current Metro school textbooks) 
  • Magazines & newspapers, including gift subscriptions

Requests for Reconsideration 

Any Davidson County resident has the right to express concerns about library resources and expect to have the objection taken seriously. Persons wishing to recommend the removal or reclassification of a particular item in the NPL collection are encouraged to discuss their concerns with a library manager. If the patron is not satisfied with the response to their request, the manager will provide the patron with information and a form to request formal reconsideration of the library resource. Bearing in mind NPL's mission statement, philosophy and the selection criteria of this collection development policy, the request will be reviewed by the Library Director and staff. Questioned items will be considered in their entirety, not judged solely on portions taken out of context. Questioned items will remain in circulation during the reconsideration process. After evaluating journal reviews and other materials submitted by the patron and the staff, the Library Director, or the Material Services Manager as his designee, will respond within 30 days of receiving the formal request.

Collection Maintenance

In addition to acquiring new materials, it is important to remove from the existing collection those items no longer deemed useful or relevant. This policy provides authority for the systematic and regular evaluation of the existing collection and subsequent withdrawal of worn, obsolete or infrequently used materials and supports the public’s right of access to an appealing and relevant collection.

Library Management Staff systematically review the collection with the goal of maintaining the quality and vitality of library resources. This process of collection analysis incorporates the use of output measures, circulation reports, and other statistical information for continuous collection evaluation.

Weeding Evaluation Criteria 

Weeding in this context is defined as the process of evaluating a book to determine if it will be retained, relocated, or replaced. Selection of materials for withdrawal is based on the CREW method. 

  • Continuous 
  • Review 
  • Evaluation 
  • Weeding 

This system uses the acronym, MUSTIE, to help evaluate an item for withdrawal: 

  • Misleading and/or factually inaccurate 
  • Ugly (worn out beyond mending or rebinding) 
  • Superseded by a new edition or a better source 
  • Trivial (of no discernible literary or scientific merit) 
  • Irrelevant to the needs and interest of your community 
  • Elsewhere (the material may be easily borrowed from another source) 

Replacement Criteria 

While NPL attempts to have copies of standard and important works, it does not automatically replace all materials withdrawn. The same criteria that apply to original selection also apply to replacements. The need for replacement is based on: 

  • The number of duplicate copies 
  • Existence of adequate coverage of the subject in the collection 
  • Demand for the specific title or subject area 
  • Availability of material 

Removal of Withdrawn Material 

Materials that no longer meet the stated objectives of NPL will be withdrawn from the system. This board approved policy, allows NPL to determine how materials are removed and where they are sent after removal from the library’s collection.

Duplication of Material

Multiple copies of materials are purchased in response to user demand as evidenced by number of reserves, anticipated popularity, repeated requests and monitoring of the collection. For popular fiction and non-fiction titles, NPL maintains a holds ratio (i.e., for every 5 holds on a title, another copy is purchased) as allowed by budget constraints.

Scope of the Collection

The primary responsibility of NPL is to serve the residents of Davidson County by providing a broad choice of materials to meet their informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs. Materials are selected to aid individuals, groups and organizations in the effort to attain practical solutions to daily problems, and to enrich the quality of life for all community members. 

Budget and space limitations, as well as local needs, preclude NPL from duplicating the specialized and comprehensive collections that exist elsewhere in Davidson County. Access to these collections is provided through cooperative networking, interlibrary loan, and direct referral. Emphasis is placed on shared access and ease of use through the online catalog and the Limitless Libraries program of school delivery.

Adult Fiction

Adult Fiction NPL’s fiction collection includes a wide variety of contemporary works of fiction representing all genres, international works, classics as well as important novels of the past. NPL makes every effort to acquire fiction which is representative of the cultural and ethnic communities that it serves and to satisfy the diversity of interests and recreational needs of its users. Formats include hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, large type, Playaway, audio cd, e-book & e-audiobook. 

Adult Nonfiction 

NPL aims at acquiring materials which provide a core of basic knowledge. In addition, NPL selects, makes accessible, and promotes the use of materials which:

  • address contemporary issues
  • provide self-help information
  • facilitate continuing education
  • enhance job-related knowledge and skills
  • increase knowledge of affairs of the community, the country, and the world
  • support business, cultural, recreational and civic interests in the community
  • nourish intellectual, aesthetic, creative and spiritual growth
  • present different viewpoints on issues 

Formats include hardcover, trade paperback, large type, Playaway, audio cd, e-book & e-audiobook. 

Children’s Collection 

To encourage life-long reading habits, the children's collection provides materials in a variety of formats to satisfy and stimulate the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs of the children of Nashville from infancy through grade eight. The materials are selected with regard to the stages of emotional and intellectual maturity of children. The collection also provides adults with materials that relate to the well-being of children, enrich preschool and school curriculums, and aid in the study of children's literature. Formats include hardcover, trade paperback, picture book, easy reader, board book, talking book, Playaway, audio cd, e-book & e-audiobook. 

Young Adult Collection 

The young adult collection materials are intended for library customers from the age of 13 to 18 years. It is a transitional collection for the reader moving from the children's collection to the adult collection. The young adult collection consists of fiction and nonfiction books of popular and contemporary interest. Formats include hardcover, trade paperback, graphic novel, manga, talking book, Playaway, audio cd, e-book & e-audiobook. 

Reference Collection 

NPL maintains a physical reference collection to serve the informational needs of library users. Reference sources are characterized by their ability to provide information and to summarize, condense, or give a comprehensive overview of a topic. They remain in the library to be readily available to all residents. Selection criteria of particular importance for reference sources are accuracy, arrangement, ease-of-use, uniqueness of information, authority, documentation, and indexing. Reference sources are consulted for specific items of information and are not meant to be read consecutively. They include bibliographies, indexes, directories, dictionaries, catalogs, statistical compendia, atlases and almanacs.

Scope of the Main Library

The Main Library serves the Davidson County community as a whole, in addition to serving as a resource for the twenty branch libraries within our system. The size and scope of its collection attracts users from surrounding areas as well as the rest of the state, but the main purpose is to serve Nashville residents. A broad choice of circulating print and non-print materials is selected to accommodate the diversity of tastes, reading levels, languages and interests of users of all ages. The Main Library provides a comprehensive collection of materials relating to the Civil Rights Movement, Nashville history, Genealogy, and local author collections. The Main Library also builds upon existing strengths within the arts. Scholarly and highly technical or specialized materials are not acquired but are available through our Interlibrary Loan department. The reference collection at the Main Library contains standard works in areas of general reference, the humanities, social sciences, physical and biological sciences, technology, history and area studies.

Scope of the Branch Libraries

The twenty branch libraries serve specific neighborhoods in the city. The interests and needs of the actual and potential users of the branch are continually evaluated so that each library has a collection reflecting the community that it serves. Branch collections are designed to serve the current, high interest needs of NPL patrons. The branch reference collections contain a limited core of basic ready reference materials supplemented by specific subject area resources of interest to that community.

Library Collections 

Albert Hadley Interior Design Collection 

Albert Hadley (1920-2012), a native of Nashville, was a renowned interior designer whose clients included Vice President Albert Gore and Tipper Gore, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Diane Sawyer, and the Astor and Getty families. The Albert Hadley Interior Design Collection at the Main Library includes over 700 titles from his personal and professional book collection, as well as sketches and ephemera. 

Annex Collections 

The Annex of NPL is a closed stacks area of the Main Library that acts as a holding location for collections of print, audiovisual, bulky, odd-sized materials, and more. These items are available to customers who request them to be delivered to their local branch though the catalog or through in-person requests at any service desk of the Main Library. 

Art Lending Library 

The Art Lending Library consists of framed, wall-hung artworks representing various sizes, styles, mediums, and techniques by Nashville-Davidson County artists. This collection is intended to expand public visibility and accessibility to works by local artists included in the Metro Public Art Collection managed by the Metro Arts Council. 


The physical audiobook collection contains compact discs and pre-loaded MP3 device sound recordings of fiction and nonfiction books, poetry and drama, language instruction, and other subjects, based on current demand. Emphasis is on acquiring unabridged works whenever possible. 

Board Game Collection 

A circulating collection of board, card and tabletop games. 

Bookclub-In-A-Bag Collection 

To assist and promote book clubs, NPL has created a collection of ready-to-go book club kits. These kits contain ten copies of a book title, discussion questions for the book, and an author biography. They are packaged in canvas tote bags for easy conveyance. 

BCycle Passes 

NPL offers reservable passes for free access to electric pedal-assist bicycles. Library customers can borrow a BCycle fob to take rides from any Nashville BCycle station. 

Community Passports 

These reservable passes give NPL cardholders free admission to area attractions and services. NPL currently offers passes for: Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, Country Music Hall of Fame, and the National Museum of African American Music. 

Connect with NPL Collection 

The circulating collection of hotspots and Chromebook that is intended to reduce the digital divide within Davidson County. 

Curriculum Kits 

Curriculum Kits are collections of 20-30 items on one topic. The Kits are located in the Main Annex division, and are housed in sturdy, covered plastic bins. Each Kit is geared at either elementary, middle or high school students with materials chosen that correspond to their curriculum. Each Kit may include a mix of print books, videos, CD audiobooks, preloaded MP3 audiobooks, flashcards, maps or laminated sheets. 

Electronic Databases (Commercial) 

Online computerized databases extend the collection by providing timely and versatile access to information in electronic format. Databases are used by the library staff to enhance and supplement reference service. Many of the databases contain specialized information beyond the scope of NPL's print collections; others have information that does not exist in print format. Some databases duplicate print sources which are carefully evaluated for retention with consideration to cost, frequency of use, and ease of access to library users. 


Digital versions of nonfiction, fiction, periodicals, reference, video, audiobooks, music, and images are all offered by NPL. The content criteria outlined in each of those sections apply, as appropriate, to their electronic counterparts. 

Fresh Reads Literacy Collection 

This collection provides material in a variety of formats to support NPL's adult literacy efforts. It is comprised of material to support new readers. NPL does not collect textbooks or workbooks meant for individual use. 

Government Archives of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County at the Main Library (see attached Collection Development Policy for a detailed description) 

Large Type Books 

The large type book collection meets the needs of an increasing number of visually impaired patrons. The major emphasis of the collection is popular fiction (including mysteries, romances and westerns) along with high interest non-fiction. Large type books are primarily purchased based on each branch’s demographics and demand. 


A circulating collection of locked, preloaded tablets with curated learning apps for children. Tablets are subject-focused, with topics ranging from English language arts to math and science. Themed tablets include princesses, dinosaurs, animals, and more. 

Library of Things 

Circulating collection housed in the Annex at the Main Library, composed of items that library customers may wish to try/test before purchase and/or are infrequently used. These include items used for outdoor activities & games, health & fitness, tools, electronics, party supplies, crafts & hobbies and musical instruments. 

Library Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 

Located at the Main Library, this lending library of books, media programs, and assistive communication devices is one of the largest in a U.S. public library. It includes materials to educate the hearing public about hearing loss and deafness as well as accessible informational and entertaining materials for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Materials about deaf blindness are also available. 

Lucky Day Collection 

Designed to allow access to bestselling titles for casual library users without the placement of advance holds, this collection is composed of print adult and young adult books in fiction and nonfiction. These items have a limit of one checkout per library card and a shortened, fourteen-day loan period in order to encourage faster turnover of material. No renewals or advance reservations online or by phone are allowed. Books stay in Lucky Day status for two months before converting back to regular status. 

Music Collection 

Music recordings on CD are available at some of our branch libraries although we are phasing this collection out as streaming has replaced most demand for music on compact disc. An emphasis is placed on keeping these collections at branches with an older demographic who still prefer that physical format. 

Periodical Collection 

NPL's newspaper and magazine collection is available in physical and digital formats and provides current and retrospective information aimed at meeting the needs of the community. The periodical collection consists of diverse publications in fields which are of interest to the community. It includes popular reading magazines, foreign language publications and subject-specific titles. Journals which are highly technical or scholarly are generally not included in the collection. In addition to magazines, the collection includes newspapers published locally as well as from major geographical areas of interest to the community. Back issues of magazines circulate. Back issues of many titles are accessible digitally for reasons of preservation and space conservation. 

Special Collections Division 

As the information center for the Nashville community, NPL places a high priority on acquiring comprehensive information and resources about Nashville, past and present. The Special Collections Division at the Main Library, collects reference and non-circulating materials which reflect the county’s historical and cultural development, with special attention to its ethnic diversity and heritage. 

The collection of historical Nashville newspapers on microfilm at the Main Library is one of the most comprehensive available in Davidson County. This collection is supported by research and historical materials. The Special Collections Division acquires exhaustive and selective material that furthers the mission to preserve and share across generations the culture and history of Nashville. It also collects maps, pamphlets, manuscripts, and selected ephemera of local significance. Non-print materials include videos, sound recordings, oral histories, and photographs. 

NPL does not actively seek manuscripts, collections of papers, memorabilia, or three-dimensional materials, although it does selectively accept gifts of this nature, particularly when the material relates to the City of Nashville. 

Special Collections Division book collections include: 

  • Banner & Stahlman Collection: These two book collections are from the Nashville Banner newspaper and also includes selected titles from the James G. Stahlman personal book collection. 
  • Genealogy Collection: This collection includes published family histories, family name origins, early passenger lists, coats of arms, research material for the genealogist and how-to books related to the same subject. The published family histories and records included in this collection are non-Tennessee, primarily relating to the areas from which Tennesseans came prior to settling in Tennessee, including Kentucky North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Great Britain. 
  • Grantham Collection: The Grantham Collection consists of 5,000 titles, including a few of his own personal publications, from Dr. Dewey Grantham, History Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Grantham’s collection includes the social, cultural, economic, and political history of the post-Civil War South. 
  • Civil Rights Collection: This monograph collection with a focus on the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, Middle Tennessee, and the South is located in the Civil Rights Room. It is funded by the Robin and Bill King Foundation. 
  • Muirhead Collection: This collection was donated by Judge Jean Muirhead and includes material related to women’s civil rights and women’s issues. 
  • Nashville Authors: The Nashville Authors Collection is composed of both fiction and nonfiction titles not concerning Tennessee subjects authored by Nashville residents. Nashville authors who write fiction or non-fiction about Tennessee subjects will have their books housed in the appropriate Tennesseana section within Special Collections. Some of these titles may also be available elsewhere in NPL as part of the circulating collection. 
  • Tennesseana: This is the largest of our monograph collections and includes Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, Davidson County and Nashville local history; Nashville City Directories; biographies about Tennesseans; and selected fiction set in Nashville or Middle Tennessee. Significant portions of the Tennesseana collection include published family histories about Tennessee families; published county records and other resource for Tennessee genealogical research; and local county and city histories for areas in Middle Tennessee. 
  • Votes for Women: The Votes for Women Collection focuses on Nashville’s and Tennessee’s role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and American women’s political movements, particularly in the South. Located in the Votes for Women Room, this collection was initiated through the vision of Margaret Behm, Juli Mosley, and Jeanie Nelson to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. 
  • The Wilson Limited Editions Collection: Containing more than 800 beautifully designed and illustrated books and portfolios of featured artwork by renowned artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Jacob Lawrence, this reference collection is housed at the Main Library and is available for viewing in depth by appointment only. 

Talking Books

The Talking Book collection is a circulating collection of picture books, fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels and easy readers with embedded audio narration. Combining print with audio is the easiest way for emerging and struggling readers, auditory and special education learners, and ELL patrons to learn literacy skills. 


Through an agreement with Metro Nashville Public Schools, all NPL locations have a core collection of print textbooks covering the basic core curriculum areas. These are reference items used for homework assistance and are updated each year. We do not replace missing textbooks. 


NPL collects videos to meet the educational and recreational needs of adults and children. The collection consists of popular feature films, television movies and shows as well as documentaries, instructional and educational films and film festival selections. Formats include DVD and other digital media. Videos of feature films include film classics, such as those named to the National Films Registry, and highly rated current films of broad family appeal or potential cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance. 

World Language Materials

NPL maintains a collection of world language materials, aimed at meeting the recreational and many of the informational needs of the Nashville community. Resources include books, magazines, and newspapers, videos and sound recordings. These materials are primarily circulating. NPL's collection also includes materials which aid in learning a second language. These resources include books such as grammars, dictionaries, audio CDs, databases, and videos for learning the languages most frequently studied in the community. 

NPL is committed to developing and maintaining foreign language collections which meet the needs of a changing Davidson County population. Foreign language needs are assessed through such tools as US Census data, patron requests, circulation statistics and community awareness. Availability of materials may impact the development of the collections.