Materials Selection Policy

Effective Date: January 23, 2023


To guide staff in the acquisition of material that is of current interest and/or lasting value to existing or potential Library customers.

To familiarize Library customers with the principles upon which selection decisions are made for Toronto Public Library collections.


The Materials Selection Policy applies to all formats, including print, non-print, audiovisual and electronic materials. It is not reflective of federated content in some digital resources provided by the Library.

This policy applies to any Library staff or organization that undertakes the selection or withdrawal of materials for the Library’s collections and to all Library staff involved with accepting and evaluating donations and gifts to the branch collections.

Underlying Principles

The selection of materials for the Library is driven by principles defined in the Library’s Values and Intellectual Freedom Statements and Vision and Mission.

Ongoing material selection activities are founded on staff familiarity with existing collections, their awareness of the needs of Library customers, and their knowledge of retrospective, current and future trends in informational and recreational materials suitable for public library use.

Except where limited by law, children are entitled to borrowing privileges and open and ready access to materials and facilities provided by the Library. Parents and legal guardians are responsible for monitoring and limiting the use of Library materials by their children.

The Library endeavors to provide equitable access to its extensive collections through a multi-tiered service delivery model which rationalizes the location, scope and focus of collections. In addition, items may be delivered to any branch at the customer’s request. The Library materials budget is maximized through coordinated and controlled expenditure.

Policy Statement

The selection of Library materials is driven by the principles defined in the Library’s Values and Intellectual Freedom Statements and Vision and Mission described in part as providing “universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas…”

The Library selects:

Staff selection activities are supported by attention to review media, bibliographies and reviewing tools, consultation with the publishing industry, authoritative discussions of genres or subject areas, and recommendations from Library customers. Activities are responsibly exercised within the context of available funds.

Special consideration is given to materials with Canadian content, that record the Canadian experience or that relate to life in Canada or the lives and works of Canadians.

The Library does not keep, acquire or purchase material that the Canadian courts have found to be obscene, hate propaganda or seditious.

No materials are excluded from selection solely because of the “race, ethnic group, nationality, immigration status, socioeconomic status, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, language, religious affiliation, beliefs, age or any other prohibited grounds” of the creator of the work.

No materials are excluded from selection solely because they may come into the possession of a child.

In adopting this policy, the Board endorses the Canadian Federation of Library Associations Statement on Intellectual Freedom, the Ontario Library Association’s Statement on the Intellectual Rights of the Individual, the Ontario Library Association’s Position on Children’s Rights in the Public Library and the Ontario Library Association’s Position on Teen’s Rights in the Public Library.

The Library Board, in establishing this Materials Selection Policy, was cognizant of Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees everyone the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

1. Selection Criteria

Library staff consider:

2. New Formats

Careful consideration is given to the introduction of new formats to Library collections. Budget considerations, community needs and the probable impact on existing resources are all reviewed before items are selected and introduced to collections in a new format.

The selection of material in any new format may result in the Library’s decision to retire specific items or material formats from its collections in order to responsibly accommodate trends in customer demands and/or changes in technology.

3. Withdrawal Activities

Selected materials are regularly assessed for their condition, accuracy, currency and usage, within the context of the Library collection, and relevance to Library customers. The withdrawal of materials from any collection is a formal process conducted by knowledgeable staff, according to written guidelines, as a necessary means to maintain collection vitality, size and scope.

An item that is the subject of a libel action of which the Library becomes aware will be removed from the collection until the action is finally resolved when, depending on the outcome of the action, it will be returned to the collection or permanently withdrawn.

4. No Endorsement of Content

Selection of an item for a library collection does not constitute endorsement by the Library of either the content or viewpoint expressed in that item.

5. Access to Collections

  1. To help customers with making an informed decision about a film, TV show or documentary, Toronto Public Library assigns viewer classification codes when available from the, Canadian Home Video Rating System, Consumer Protection BC or the Motion Picture Association of America.
  2. The Library and digital content vendors may control use of any collection material in order to protect items deemed susceptible to theft or damage by customers, or to ensure the widest possible use of materials by Library customers.
  3. The Library does not mark selected materials in order to indicate approval or disapproval of item contents or attempt to expurgate information contained in selected items.
  4. Materials of local and global importance in the public domain held in TPL’s Special Collections are assessed and prioritized for digitization and inclusion in TPL’s Digital Archive, as resources permit.

6. Gifts and Donations

  1. The Library welcomes donations of materials from individuals or groups that are in very good condition and are less than five years old. Donated books are sold in most branches and at Book Ends bookstores.
  2. Gifts-in-kind to the Library’s Special Collections follow the Donations of Gifts-In- Kind to Special Collections Policy.
  3. The same criteria and guidelines that apply to the selection of all Library materials are used to evaluate gifts and donations. It is understood that gifts and donations are freely given without conditions attached, unless specifically negotiated beforehand, and that all gifts and donations will be used or disposed of as the Library deems appropriate.
  4. Tax receipts are issued only for items that meet the selection guidelines and are accepted into the collection.

7. Customer Requests

  1. Library customers may place formal requests for the purchase of collection materials by completing a form provided by the Library.
  2. All suggested purchases are reviewed by Library staff who apply to the customer request the same selection criteria that are applied to all materials purchased by the Library.
  3. The originator of a request will not be notified of the Library’s selection decision.

8. Resource Sharing / Inter-Library Loan (ILL) Services

  1. Items that fall outside the selection criteria of the Library or that are “out of print” or temporarily unavailable can be requested by Library customers from other library systems by using regular Inter-Library Loan services. Fees for the service occasionally apply.
  2. Application for Inter-Library Loan service can be made online or at any branch of the Library.
  3. The Library recognizes the purposes and resources of other information agencies in the City and does not needlessly duplicate materials.

9. Reconsideration of Materials

  1. The Library believes that a vital society encourages members of its community to actively participate in an open exchange of ideas and opinions. Material selectors consequently strive to provide the widest possible range of resources within Toronto Public Library collections.
  2. The content or manner of expressing ideas in material that is purposely selected to fill the needs of some Library customers, may, on occasion, be considered to be offensive by other Library customers. The Library recognizes the right of any individual or group to reject library material for personal use, but does not accord to any individual or group the right to restrict the freedom of others to make use of that same material.
  3. Library customers who object to materials located in the collection are asked to complete a written request for the reconsideration of the materials. Request forms are available for this purpose at all Library branches.
  4. Decisions made about challenged materials will be communicated to the originators of the requests following completion of a formal staff review.
  5. The originator may make an appeal about the decision in writing to the City Librarian within seven days of the decision. The City Librarian is the final decision-maker on the request for consideration.
  6. An annual report on challenges to Library materials is provided to the Board.
  7. Some of the Library’s digital content is provided using third-party vendors. The Library subscribes to services in which the third-party vendor, and not Library staff, determines the specific titles or materials made available through the service. In these circumstances, the Library is unable to reconsider specific materials that library customers object to, but may inform the third-party vendor of customer concerns and/or take these concerns into consideration in determining whether to continue using the vendor.


The responsibility for selection of materials is vested in the office of the City Librarian, which delegates this professional activity to qualified and knowledgeable staff.

The Collections and Membership Services divisions is responsible for ensuring implementation of the Policy.

Related Legislation

This list contains the most significant legislation and Toronto Public Library policies relating to the Materials Selection Policy.

Federal Legislation

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Criminal Code (R.S., 1985, c. C-46)

Provincial Legislation

Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990, c. H.19.

Related Toronto Public Library Policies

Donations of Gifts-In-Kind to Special Collections Policy.

Definition of Terms

Materials: All of the items that comprise library collections regardless of format.

Collections: The various holdings of the Library organized by category, e.g. fiction collection, French collection

Format: The medium in which information is presented, e.g. a book, DVD, ebook

Inter-Library Loan: The service through which customers may request that items not owned by or missing from the Toronto Public Library be borrowed from other institutions, subject to availability and the interlibrary loan policies of the lending institutions


Appendix 1: Toronto Public Library Mission Statement
Appendix 2: Toronto Public Library Intellectual Freedom Statement
Appendix 3: Canadian Federation of Library Associations Intellectual Freedom and Libraries
Appendix 4: Ontario Library Association’s Statement on the Intellectual Rights of the Individual
Appendix 5: Ontario Library Association’s Position on Children’s Rights in the Public Library
Appendix 6: Ontario Library Association’s Statement on Teen’s Rights in the Public Library


Lisa Radha Vohra
Director, Collections & Membership

Matt Abbott
Manager, Collection Development, Collection Development