Material Selection Policy

It is the role of the public library to meet the information and interest needs of the total community. The San Mateo County Libraries affirm each individual's right of free access to information and ideas, whereby individual thoughts and opinions may be formed. To this end the library acquires and maintains materials representing the history of human thought, expression, and achievement; as well as those reflective of contemporary issues, trends and ideas.


San Mateo County Libraries recognize that libraries’ historical practice of charging late fines impacts library use negatively and inequitably, and that fines do not effectively incentivize the on-time return of library materials. Late fines are in opposition to our mission of ensuring equitable access, creating welcoming experiences and growing a culture of learning and participation. As a result, San Mateo County Libraries do not charge fines for the late return of materials.

In order to ensure that library materials are returned, San Mateo County Libraries will charge patrons replacement fees equal to the cost of a misplaced item. Once an item is returned to the library, the replacement fee will be removed from the patron’s account. The Library may block accounts with excessive charges until items are returned or the charges are paid down.

San Mateo County Libraries work with other public and academic libraries in order to make a more extensive range of collections available to its patrons. San Mateo County Libraries patrons who check out materials from other libraries using their San Mateo County Libraries card by visiting another Peninsula Library System library, placing a hold, or using the Link+ inter-library loan service, may be assessed fines based on the policies of the owning libraries.


The San Mateo County Libraries consider the needs of all people, neither censoring nor judging individual informational requirements or interest, and make material accessible to all. Library materials are selected to represent all points of view and are not excluded because they may contain language or illustrations offensive to some persons.

The responsibility for selecting, acquiring, and organizing materials rests with staff librarians. The basic test for selection is whether the material meets proven or potential information and interest needs. Other considerations include: availability, cost, amount of similar material already available in the collection, and whether the material may be available elsewhere in the community. Some items are available on limited access because

of rarity, cost, or susceptibility to loss or damage. To provide the fullest possible access to information, the library selects and provides materials in a variety of formats and media.
Items are withdrawn from the collection with the same degree of attention as initial selection, taking into account physical condition and the needs of the community.

The Library subscribes to the Library Bill of Rights as adopted and amended January 23, 1980, by the American Library Association, as follows:

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  • Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  • A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, race, background, or views.
  • 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.

Approved by the Library JPA Governing Board on November 5, 2018.

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