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NLS: That All May Read

NLS Collection Building Policy

(revised 12/31/2009)

Purpose and scope

This document states the NLS selection policy for reading materials. It is intended to be used by NLS staff in day-to-day selection activities, by network libraries as a guide in developing local collections, and by readers seeking more information on the nature of the NLS collections.

This policy identifies what materials should be included in the NLS collections to support and realize the mission of the Library of Congress, and outlines in general terms the priorities for building and maintaining the collections to implement NLS's goals and objectives. It defines the scope of the collections, specifying the intensity or level of the collections within that scope (Appendix). It may identify areas of strength in the collections in regard to both subject and media, whether areas that represent former collection-building patterns now discontinued or areas of current and continuing collection strength.

The policy proposes to guide the staff in selecting material; to provide a standard for the ongoing evaluation of the collections; to provide guidance to network libraries developing supplementary collections so that needless duplication of effort may be avoided; and to provide readers and librarians with information on the nature of the collections.

Legal responsibility

Under Public Law 89-522, the Library of Congress is responsible for providing library materials for blind and physically handicapped residents of the United States and United States citizens living abroad. NLS is responsible for carrying out this mandate and seeks to cooperate and coordinate with other agencies and groups so that readers may have access to the widest possible number of titles.

The NLS mission includes two goals: to develop and maintain an inventory of braille and recorded materials that will meet the reading preferences and information needs of a highly diverse clientele; and to develop coordinated library service for all persons eligible for this service.

Program policy

NLS patrons should have access to the same types of books and information available to the general public through public libraries.

The recreation and information needs of the aged, the young, professional people, and other specific groups should be reflected proportionally in the collections in relation to the overall readership served.

The collections should offer standard classic and informational titles, along with works of popular and recreational interest.

Selection of any given book is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the views expressed therein. Books selected are reproduced in their entirety and remain available even if they are offensive or unacceptable to some readers. NLS supports intellectual freedom and subscribes to the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement.

ALA Library Bill of Rights:

http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/index.cfm  External link symbol

ALA Freedom to Read Statement:

http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement.cfm  External link symbol

NLS serves as the central node in a national network of regional and subregional libraries offering public library service to blind and physically handicapped individuals. It uses the production capabilities of commercial, nonprofit, and volunteer organizations to produce quantities of books ranging from a few copies to more than a thousand copies. The quantity of any title produced is dependent on the pertinence of the work to the network libraries collections and to expected reader demand.

Network libraries provide an additional source of materials by producing books of local and regional interest, and books of recreational or informational interest not provided for in the NLS collections. Network libraries make these titles accessible nationwide by sending bibliographic data to NLS for inclusion in the NLS International Union Catalog, and by providing interlibrary loan copies on request.

Textbooks, which are not generally part of the NLS collections, are available through volunteer individuals and groups and nonprofit organizations such as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic and the American Printing House for the Blind. A collection of electronic and single-copy spiral-bound thermoform texts produced by the National Braille Association was acquired by NLS in 2007. These are currently stored at the Multistate Center West.

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Access to NLS collections by network librarians and patrons

Network librarians and patrons have access to the NLS collections through the International Union Catalog, available on the Internet at through the NLS web site www.loc.gov/nls.

Information about the most recently produced books is available through the bimonthly publications Talking Books Topics and Braille Book Review. These are available in large print, on audiocassette, in braille, and online. Annual catalogs of braille and recorded books are available in several media. Short subject-matter bibliographies are occasionally produced by the Network Division.

The role of patrons and network libraries in building the collection

NLS is committed to meeting patrons' recreational and informational reading needs. To that end NLS has instituted the following methods to insure patron participation in the selection process:

The Collection Development Advisory Group is designed to bring patrons' concerns to NLS. The group meets annually. It is made up of four network librarians (one from each of the four conferences, appointed by the conference chair), one children's librarian, four readers-at-large (one from each of the four conferences, appointed by the conference chair), and one representative from each of three consumer organizations (the American Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, and the National Federation of the Blind). The meeting is held annually for three days in May at NLS. Participants are reimbursed for their expenses. After an introductory workshop to acquaint the group with current issues in book selection and production, the group members discuss among themselves the various concerns they have brought from the constituents they represent. At the final meeting the group presents NLS with a list of recommendations to guide NLS in the development of the collections.

Patrons are encouraged to bring their reading needs to the attention of NLS by contacting their regional or subregional library. The librarians will then query NLS and report back to the patron.

In building the NLS collections, consideration is given to resources and information available from other organizations including network libraries. NLS is committed to considering patron's needs, publishing trends, NLS resources, and network library activities in open forum such as those provided by advisory groups.

General policies

The NLS catalog consists of braille and recorded reproduction of published printed works. It consists primarily of English-language materials, but has a small and growing collection of books in languages other than English, especially Spanish. The goal of including information in all subject areas in both braille and recorded formats is approached within the overall context of technological and cost considerations.

Unpublished manuscripts and self-published works are not considered for inclusion in the NLS collections.

Books are considered for selection only when print copies are available for examination, when the titles are well reviewed in widely distributed national publications (two positive reviews in the mainstream press are a minimal requirement; exceptions are made when special relevance to NLS patrons is apparent), when they appear in authoritative bibliographies, or when they are recognized by librarians as basic works appropriate to a public library's collection.

Priority is given to works of perceived long-lasting value, with a smaller number of selections from widely discussed but perhaps more ephemeral works.

Generally excluded from the collection, except where specifically noted, are textbooks or other curriculum-related materials, unless such materials are appropriate to a public library collection; information that is likely to become dated before the production process can be completed; and titles that serve only propagandistic purposes, except where important documents by prominent individuals are included and are not otherwise available.

NLS does not generally include government publications in its collection, but provides assistance and consultation to agencies as they seek to provide their circulars, documents, and explanatory pamphlets in alternative media.

Books in the collection that are in poor condition or whose contents have become dated are withdrawn. Network libraries are notified of the decision to withdraw specific titles. The libraries have the option of retaining such material if they so desire. Circulating copies of withdrawn titles are available to readers on request through interlibrary loan through network libraries.

Withdrawn titles are identified in the NLS International Union Catalog. Withdrawn titles of lasting interest are considered for rerecording.

Encyclopedias and dictionaries, which are not suited for use on a loan basis, and annuals, which have information that may become dated quickly, are not generally selected for inclusion in the national collections. For most reference questions, patrons are referred to their regional library or nearest public library.

No attempt is made to acquire more than a single imprint of a specific title. Variant imprints may appear in the collection when original master recordings of a title selected for reissue are missing or damaged and an alternate edition must be obtained.

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Music scores and technical music books are circulated by the NLS Music Section. Books geared to the general public on music and musicians are a part of the NLS general collection, and are available through network libraries.

Self-help instructional materials that are found in public libraries and that can be converted to a special format may be added to the collection when identified as appropriate for meeting patron needs.

Gift and exchange materials that meet NLS quality-assurance standards are accepted in accordance with the scope and level defined in this policy (Appendix). Exceptions may be made in regard to foreign-language materials, where the need to acquire materials expeditiously in a variety of languages is paramount.

Large-print books are not included in the NLS collection except in the special music collection. Patrons who need large-print scores and music instruction materials are directed to the NLS Music Section. Fiction and nonfiction books in large print are available in most public libraries and are included in the collections of many network libraries.

Duplication of titles in more than one special format is based on and reflects NLS response to known reader needs or anticipated popularity.

NLS provides a limited number of periodicals in braille or recorded formats. Emphasis is placed on, but not limited to, periodicals indexed in the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. Generally, periodicals published by specific interest groups that contain information of interest solely to members of those groups are not included in the collection. Two programs, Magazine of the Month and Young Adult Magazine of the Month, provide patrons with magazines that are not available by subscription.

Standard works relating to the world's major religions, including the holy books, are provided in proportion to demand. The NLS Reference Section provides an information circular listing organizations that make copies of holy books available at little or no cost to persons who wish to have a personal copy.

NLS provides a special collection in languages other than English. The collection is based upon the relative number of individuals using a language in the overall readership, and upon the availability of works in that language.

Both original works and translations are included in the collection. Most foreign-language materials are acquired by purchase and through gift and exchange arrangements with overseas organizations. Children's titles, including bilingual editions, and titles that may be used by adults for self-education are included. Courses on how to speak a foreign language are not included since these are widely available to readers from other sources. English-as-a-second-language materials are considered if these materials are not available from other sources.

The young-adult collection is presented as part of the adult collection. Young-adult material is generally geared to students in junior and senior high school but is often read and enjoyed by younger readers as well as adults. Selection of materials is governed by the same criteria used to develop the collections in general.

The children's collection is developed to meet the needs of children from preschool (age four) through grade eight. Selection criteria are similar to those used to develop the adult collection.

Criteria for selection

Selection of books for the collections involves consideration of what has already been selected in the subject area, the media previously used, the audiences to which the titles will appeal, the titles' potential popularity, the format of the print book, and the media to which the titles best lend themselves.

Nonfiction. The collection offers representative coverage in all major subject areas, with selective coverage in subareas and attention to the following:

  1. Broad trends in public interests, knowledge of developing theories and practices in the various subject areas, and availability of appropriate titles;
  2. Materials in areas of particular interest to readers, classic and standard materials, contemporary works, specialized works of interest to educated laymen, and works with potential informational reading reference.

Fiction. The selection goal is to meet the recreational and informational reading needs of a large readership with vastly different tastes, interests, purposes, and reading levels. The collection contains literary classics as well as popular and experimental works.

Criteria used for the selection of periodicals include the above, plus consideration of whether the periodicals reflect current thinking in the various fields represented, are of high interest and in demand, are representative in their points of view, and meet recreational and informational needs.

Collection dynamics

Patrons' needs, publishing trends, and changing resources require that the policies that describe and direct the collection be constantly monitored. This policy may serve as a basis for discussion at ad hoc group meetings. Recommendations from patrons' groups or network libraries may be considered as the basis for amending or changing this document.

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Appendix: Levels of collection development

This appendix describes and directs the levels of information developed in the various areas set out by the Dewey classifications. The definitions of the levels were arrived at by consultation with NLS staff, administration, network librarians, and users of the program.

Minimal. This level would be represented in a subject that is outside the scope of the NLS collections and in which only the most basic works will be selected.

Basic. At this level the collections will contain enough material to provide an essential understanding of the subject and indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. The collections may include editions of important works, general surveys, important biographies, and perhaps periodicals. A basic level is not sufficiently intensive to support independent in-depth study in the subject area. It may include strong retrospective holdings and/or material selected for its relevance to other areas of strength.

Support. This level provides sufficient material for independent study. It includes a wide range of basic works as well as selections from the works of secondary or controversial writers.

Research. The NLS collections are not intended to provide the level of materials sufficient to support independent research.

NLS selects titles for its collections based on the Dewey classification system. This system classifies books under the following general subject areas: General Works (000-099), Philosophy (100-199), Religion (200-299), the Social Sciences (300-399), Languages (400-499), Pure Sciences (500-599), Technology (600-699), the Arts (700-799), Literature (800-899), and General Geography and History (900-999).

These general subject areas are broken down into more specific categories and NLS selects books in these specific categories at the Minimal, Basic, or Support level in accordance with this selection policy and existing guidelines.

General Works (000-099) includes:

General Works: Basic
Bibliographies: Minimal
Library Science: Minimal
General Encyclopedias: Minimal
General Periodicals: Minimal
General Societies: Minimal
Newspaper Journalism: Basic
Collected Works: Basic

Philosophy (100-199) includes:

General Philosophy: Minimal
Metaphysics: Minimal
Metaphysical Theories: Minimal
Branches of Psychology: Basic
Philosophical Topics: Minimal
General Psychology: Basic
Logic: Minimal
Ethics: Basic
Ancient, Medieval, and Oriental Philosophy: Basic
Modern Philosophy: Basic

Religion (200-299) includes:

General Religious Works: Basic
Natural Religion: Basic
The Bible: Basic
Christian Doctrinal Theology: Basic
Christian Moral and Devotional: Basic
Local Church and Religious Orders: Basic
Social and Ecclesiastical Theology: Basic
History and Geography of the Church: Basic
Christian Denominations and Sects: Basic
Other Religions and Comparative Religion: Basic

The Social Sciences (300-399) includes:

Sociology: Basic
Statistics: Minimal
Political Science: Basic
Economics: Basic
Law: Minimal
Public Administration: Basic
Social Pathology and Services (also Physical Handicaps): Basic
Education: Basic
Commerce: Minimal
Customs and Folklore: Basic

Languages (400-499) includes:

Language History, Philosophy, Study, and Teaching: Minimal
Comparative Linguistics: Minimal
English Language History, Pronunciation, Dictionaries, Etymologies, Grammar, and Prosody: Basic
Other Languages: Minimal

Pure Sciences (500-599) includes:

General Sciences: Basic
Mathematics: Minimal
Astronomy and Allied Sciences: Basic
Physics: Minimal
Chemistry and Allied Sciences: Minimal
Earth Sciences: Minimal
Paleontology: Minimal
Life Sciences: Basic
Botanical Sciences: Minimal
Zoological Sciences: Basic

Technology (Applied Science) (600-699) includes:

General Technology: Minimal
Medical Sciences: Basic
Engineering: Minimal
Agriculture: Basic
Pets: Basic
Home Economics: Minimal
Food and Cooking: Basic
Home and Equipment, Sewing, and Child Care: Basic
Business: Basic
Chemical Technology: Minimal
Manufacturing: Minimal
Building Construction: Minimal

The Arts (700-799) includes:

The Arts (General): Basic
Landscape and Civic Art: Minimal
Architecture: Minimal
Sculpture: Minimal
Drawing and Decorative Arts: Minimal
Painting: Minimal
Prints and Print Making: Minimal
Photography: Minimal
Music: Basic
Recreation Arts and Performing Arts: Basic

Literature (800-899) includes:

General Works: Basic
American Literature: Support
Poetry: Basic
Drama: Basic
Fiction-Classics: Support
Essays: Basic
Speeches: Minimal
Letters: Minimal
Satire and Humor: Basic
Miscellaneous Writings: Basic
English and Anglo-Saxon Literature: Basic
German Literature: Minimal
French Literature: Minimal
Italian Literature: Minimal
Spanish and Portuguese Literature: Minimal
Italic Literatures-Latin: Minimal
Hellenic Literatures-Greek: Minimal
Literature of Other Languages: Minimal

General Geography and History (900-999) includes:

General Works: Basic
Accounts of Travel: Basic
Geography of the Ancient World: Minimal
Geography of Europe: Basic
Geography of Asia and Africa: Basic
Geography of North America: Support
Geography of South American and Other Areas: Minimal
General Biography: Basic
Genealogy: Minimal
History of the Ancient World: Minimal
History of Europe: Basic
History of Asia: Basic
History of Africa: Basic
History of American Indians: Basic
History of Canada: Basic
History of Central America and Caribbean: Basic
History of the United States: Support
History of South America: Basic
History of Other Areas: Minimal

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Posted on 2011-01-10