Collection Development



To fulfill its mission to provide opportunities for all people to connect, learn, and imagine, the Burlington Public Library maintains a collection of print, audiovisual, and online resources. This policy regards the selection, maintenance, and access to this collection.


Collection Selection

The staff of the Burlington Public Library chooses print, non-print and electronic resources to make available to the users of the library based on the needs and interests of the community and to balance the library’s collection. In keeping with the American Library Association’s Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, the library selects content in multiple formats and, where applicable to our community, multiple languages, and seeks content created by and representative of marginalized and underrepresented groups.


In addition to professional knowledge and experience, the library staff will use requests, staff suggestions, use patterns, community issues, review literature, special bibliographies, and reports of information trends as source data for the selection of materials to be added to the library’s collection. Selection criteria includes one or more of the following: community needs and interests, accuracy and timeliness of information and content, qualifications and reputation of the creator, professional review ratings, contribution to the diversity of the collection, inclusion in standard bibliographies or indexes, prizes and awards, popularity and demand, quality of format, and affordability and budgetary availability. Neither the lack of a review, nor an unfavorable review, will be the sole criteria for purchase or prevent the purchase of an item if it meets other criteria for purchase.


The library staff will be impartial in materials selection and will make every effort to obtain materials to represent more than one point of view. Inclusion of material in the collection does not constitute an endorsement. The Library recognizes that certain materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some library users.


Items that are not owned by the library may be requested. An effort will be made to purchase the materials, if they meet the selection criteria as outlined in this policy, or to borrow such items using interlibrary loan.


The ultimate responsibility for materials selection rests with the Library Director, who operates under the policies determined by the Library Board. The Director may delegate this responsibility to appropriate staff.


Collection Maintenance

The library staff continually examines the collection and will withdraw materials from the collection that are worn, damaged, outdated, or no longer used. Disposal of withdrawn library materials will be determined by the Library Director.


Collection Access

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. The Burlington Public Library affirms the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read, and Freedom to View documents as statements of each individual’s right to freedom of choice in information and materials use (see Appendix). The library’s collection is not limited to the viewpoints of any one individual, agency, or government. Each individual is free to accept or reject materials on an individual basis regardless of age. No one may restrict or abridge the rights of others to access, read, hear, or view library materials. The library does not restrict access to materials, except for the express purposes of protecting materials from mutilation or theft. Children and young adults may use both the youth and the adult collections. Parents or guardians are responsible for the reading, viewing, and listening of library materials by their children. The library makes no attempt to act in loco parentis or to assume the rightful role of parents in monitoring, controlling, or curtailing the reading, listening, or viewing behavior of children.


Gifts and Memorials

Gifts of print and non-print materials are accepted and become the property of the library with the understanding that the library staff may add the materials to the collection or dispose of them using the same criteria as purchases. The library will not accept materials which are not outright gifts. It is the responsibility of the donor to provide the value of a gift for tax purposes. Memorial funds are also accepted with the understanding that the library staff will use the same criteria as other purchases for the library. If requested, the staff will do their best to fulfill requests of particular topics for memorials. If contact information is provided by the donor, donations to the library will be acknowledged with a note of thanks.


Reconsideration of Materials

Once an item is selected, it will not be removed from the collection at the request of a person or group who objects to it unless it is in violation of this policy. Any resident of Burlington or of a contracting city/county who wishes to object to the inclusion of a particular item in the library's collection shall be referred to the Statement of Concern Policy.



The Burlington Public Library recognizes that media collections often require equipment that users may not own. To make these collections accessible to all, the library provides a variety of equipment for check-out. Loan periods vary with the type of equipment. The library also provides a variety of equipment that can be signed out for use in the library. The person checking out or signing out equipment is responsible for the cost of damage to or loss of equipment. Equipment must be returned in the condition it was checked out as judged by staff. The equipment may only be checked out if not in use or scheduled to be in use by Library staff.


Local History and Genealogy Collection

The purpose of the local history and genealogy collection is to preserve source material on the history of Burlington and Des Moines County and provide basic research material for area genealogists. The library will make these materials available on a restricted basis to patrons and hold the materials in trust for future generations.



The major emphasis of the collection is on the City of Burlington and Des Moines County. Local history and genealogy materials for these areas are collected on a comprehensive basis, but do not include objects better suited for museum collections. The genealogy materials, which include record indexes and abstracts, histories, census microfilms, and other sources useful to family historians, are also collected on a more limited basis for counties adjacent to Des Moines County. Genealogy materials on other areas of Iowa, other states, and other countries are collected as they pertain to areas where large groups of people who settled in Burlington originated. These materials are collected on a limited basis. Family histories are acquired as gifts and purchased only when they have a significant connection to Burlington and Des Moines County.


The local history collection also includes selected published works by Burlington and Des Moines County authors. The authors must have lived in Burlington or Des Moines County for over two years to have their works included.


The extent of duplication of copies of historical sources is based upon demand; but, in general, the library will archive no more than two copies of significant local history materials. The library does not generally discard materials in this collection unless an item does not fit the criteria set for the scope of the collection.


Since many of the items are in fragile condition and some are one-of-a-kind, the local history and genealogy materials are used in the library and may not be checked out. Attempts will be made to preserve these materials through careful storage, handling, and reproduction to insure access for future generations. When microfilm copies of specialized material are available, it is the policy of the library to encourage use of this format rather then use of the original material.


Revised and adopted: November 15, 2023, March 23, 2022, October 21, 2020, August 16, 2017; May 21, 2014; April 17, 2013; August 17, 2011; August 19, 2009; October 18, 2006; May 20, 1998; April 17, 1996; May 9, 1990; April, 1990




Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; January 29, 2019.


The Freedom to Read Statement

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.

These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.

Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.

Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.

We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate, in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of offerings.

The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

We therefore affirm these propositions:

  1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.

Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.

  1. Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.

Publishers and librarians serve the educational process by helping to make available knowledge and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They do not foster education by imposing as mentors the patterns of their own thought. The people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or government or church. It is wrong that what one can read should be confined to what another thinks proper.

  1. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.

No art or literature can flourish if it is to be measured by the political views or private lives of its creators. No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.

  1. There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

To some, much of modern expression is shocking. But is not much of life itself shocking? We cut off literature at the source if we prevent writers from dealing with the stuff of life. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare the young to meet the diversity of experiences in life to which they will be exposed, as they have a responsibility to help them learn to think critically for themselves. These are affirmative responsibilities, not to be discharged simply by preventing them from reading works for which they are not yet prepared. In these matters values differ, and values cannot be legislated; nor can machinery be devised that will suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.

  1. It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.

The ideal of labeling presupposes the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by authority what is good or bad for others. It presupposes that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. But Americans do not need others to do their thinking for them.

  1. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people's freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.

It is inevitable in the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral, or the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to determine for themselves what they wish to read, and each group is free to determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further, democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or self-censorship.

  1. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a "bad" book is a good one, the answer to a "bad" idea is a good one.

The freedom to read is of little consequence when the reader cannot obtain matter fit for that reader's purpose. What is needed is not only the absence of restraint, but the positive provision of opportunity for the people to read the best that has been thought and said. Books are the major channel by which the intellectual inheritance is handed down, and the principal means of its testing and growth. The defense of the freedom to read requires of all publishers and librarians the utmost of their faculties, and deserves of all Americans the fullest of their support.

We state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.

This statement was originally issued in May of 1953 by the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, which in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute to become the Association of American Publishers.

Adopted June 25, 1953, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee; amended January 28, 1972; January 16, 1991; July 12, 2000; June 30, 2004.


Freedom to View Statement

The Freedom to View, along with the freedom to speak, to hear, and to read, is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In a free society, there is no place for censorship of any medium of expression. Therefore these principles are affirmed:

  1. To provide the broadest access to film, video, and other audiovisual materials because they are a means for the communication of ideas. Liberty of circulation is essential to insure the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.

  2. To protect the confidentiality of all individuals and institutions using film, video, and other audiovisual materials.

  3. To provide film, video, and other audiovisual materials which represent a diversity of views and expression. Selection of a work does not constitute or imply agreement with or approval of the content.

  4. To provide a diversity of viewpoints without the constraint of labeling or prejudging film, video, or other audiovisual materials on the basis of the moral, religious, or political beliefs of the producer or filmmaker or on the basis of controversial content.

  5. To contest vigorously, by all lawful means, every encroachment upon the public's freedom to view.

This statement was originally drafted by the Freedom to View Committee of the American Film and Video Association (formerly the Educational Film Library Association) and was adopted by the AFVA Board of Directors in February 1979. This statement was updated and approved by the AFVA Board of Directors in 1989.

Endorsed January 10, 1990, by the ALA Council