The Library’s Mission

Forbes Library exists to provide a wide range of information and materials to all of the people of Northampton, using traditional and innovative technology, and to encourage and support the civic, intellectual, and cultural pursuits of the community. It strives to meet these objectives with continuous sensitivity to the changing needs of the community, and adapts its services to meet these needs. The Library also provides a friendly physical environment which can serve as a community meeting place and in which it encourages curiosity, free inquiry and lifelong learning; and endeavors to make the community aware of its resources and services.

Collection Development Philosophy/Goals

It is the aim of the Library to meet the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of our patrons by providing Library materials and information sources in a variety of formats and reading levels in accordance with the mission and goals of this Library, the varied interests of our patrons, and budgetary constraints.

Collection development goals include:

  • Foster literacy skills and a love of reading required for a lifetime of learning for people of all ages
  • Aid in learning and improving job-related skills
  • Utilize computer technology to provide Library resources to patrons who are unable to physically come to the Library
  • Supplement formal study and encourage self-education
  • Provide materials for those who cannot physically come to the Library
  • Provide materials for recreation, leisure, and entertainment
  • Stimulate thoughtful participation in the affairs of the community, the country, and the world

In compliance with our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the Library will attempt to provide the widest range of viewpoints based on the quality, cost, and availability of the materials for purchase.

Accessibility of Collections

The Library maintains a large and diverse collection of materials. The Library strives to make its collections as accessible as possible, both by selecting materials accessible to patrons with different learning abilities, educational levels, and physical needs, but also by providing assistive technology and other accommodations as needed. The Library maintains collections of:

  • High interest low reading level material
  • Large print books
  • Audiobooks
  • Braille books for children
  • Books in Spanish and other world languages
  • Downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks
  • DVDs with Descriptive Video Service
  • DVDs with Closed Captioning or Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Through its ongoing relationship with Perkins Library, the Library also helps patrons with disabilities gain access to collections from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Assistive Technology and Collections

The Library provides a variety of assistive technologies. Assistive technologies that make the Library’s collections more accessible include:

  • Handheld magnifiers (in library use)
  • An Optelec closed-circuit magnifier (in library use)
  • A talking book reader for use with materials from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Patrons who would benefit from additional accommodations are encouraged to contact the Library.

Physical Access to Collections

We are always happy to help you retrieve library materials. If you encounter any difficulty reaching the materials you need, please let us know and we will retrieve them for you.

The Library’s Service Population

Forbes Library patrons are of all ages and interests, and Northampton’s progressive community and high level of educational attainment ensures demand for materials on a wide variety of subjects. The Library is increasingly busy with circulation, interlibrary loan, reference questions, computer usage, and programming attendance. As a member of C/WMARS, the Library is able to provide very efficient interlibrary loan services for patrons with needs outside the scope of our collection. In addition, because of the Library’s unique holdings with the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum and the popularity of the Hampshire Room, with local history and genealogical materials, tourists and traveling researchers contribute significantly to the Library’s business.

The City of Northampton’s website describes Northampton as offering a sophisticated lifestyle rich in cultural, artistic, academic, and business resources. The city has been recognized in recent years by numerous publications as a top rated town for the arts, for families, for historic preservation and for outdoor activities. Northampton values its plethora of opportunities for lifelong learning. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Northampton was home to nearly 30,000 people. Because of the five colleges, there are a large number of students in the community who continually use the public library as their point of access for information. As of Fiscal Year 2015, 17,147 residents of Northampton, Florence, and Leeds had active library cards. Approximately 55% of adult residents 25 years and over have academic degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher. 12.5% of Northampton’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Local employment is concentrated in educational, health, and social services, followed by retail, arts and entertainment. Nearly 10% of the working population (16 years and over) is self-employed.

The current profile of the Northampton community is not expected to change significantly in the next 10 years, but the demand for Library services will continue to grow. The Library’s collection will reflect the fact that a majority of Northampton patrons read at the college level. Library collections will respond to community demand for materials in world languages spoken by the largest cultural groups, including Spanish and other indo-European languages, and for materials on learning to read, speak, and write in English. Increases in the number of small businesses and self-employment should continue, and will create a greater demand for business reference services and materials on accounting, personnel management, marketing, travel, and finance. The gap between the information-rich and information-poor will widen, increasing both the need for sophisticated reference service and a materials collection strong in basic life skills information. The need for children’s materials will continue to increase because of the demands of well-educated parents, lack of other sources for these materials in the community, and the rise of home schooling.

Responsibility for Collection Development

The Board of Trustees sets Library policy, including the policy on collection development. The Trustees endorse the Library Bill of Rights, a fundamental philosophy statement formulated by the American Library Association (see Appendix A). The Director administers policy set by the Trustees and is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the Library. Individual decisions regarding selection and acquisition of materials, deselection, and discarding are delegated to specific staff members who are responsible for subjects and sections in their areas of expertise, and guided by the criteria in this policy.

Selection Criteria

All materials, whether purchased or donated, are considered in terms of the criteria listed below. An item need not meet all of these standards in order to be added to the collection.

Public Demand and Community Interest

  • Popularity of title, as indicated by sales and circulation
  • Local emphasis, either subject matter or author
  • Patron requests

Merits of Individual Titles

  • Creative, literary, or technical quality: clarity, originality, readability, artistic excellence
  • Accuracy and currency of information, depth and breadth of coverage and indexing
  • Reputation, expertise, and/or significance of author, illustrator, publisher, or producer
  • Quality of physical format, bindings, durability, illustrations/reproductions, the technical quality of audiovisual formats and software, ease of use
  • Treatment of subject for age of intended audience
  • Reviews, critical assessments in a variety of journals

Collection Goals

  • Contemporary significance or permanent value: source material or a record of the times; representation of an important movement, genre, trend or culture
  • Relationship to existing collection: contribution to balanced, up-to date coverage of a broad range of subject areas
  • Representation of diverse points of view
  • Relationship to materials in other area libraries, especially availability within the C/WMARS consortium
  • Materials serving diverse local populations, including speakers of languages other than English
  • Materials accessible to patrons with different learning abilities, educational levels, and physical needs; for example, audio and large print formats
  • Currency and usability of formats; downloadable electronic books are purchased cooperatively through the C/WMARS network and statewide through the Commonwealth eBook Collection

Financial Considerations

  • Price and availability
  • Value for cost
  • Library materials budget

Selectors will consult professional library literature and publishing review media, examine other Library’s holdings in the C/WMARS catalog, and review suggestions directly from the public and other staff. An item will be purchased if there is heavy demand, even though reviews may be unfavorable or other items on the same subject are in the collection.

Guidelines for Specific Subject Areas and Formats

1. Fiction

Current adult fiction is in great demand and is purchased extensively. The collection includes recreational reading, classic literature, and titles representing styles of various periods and countries. Controversial books of recognized literary merit may be acquired.

2. Non-Fiction

The Library collects recognized, standard works as well as timely materials for current demand. Non-fiction may be excluded for inaccurate information, lack of integrity, sensationalism, intent to promote hatred or intolerance, and content that is too limited or specialized. In the case of controversial questions, variety and balance of opinion are sought whenever available.

3. Audiovisual Collections

  1. The music audio collection represents significant performers, composers, and styles of popular and classical music, including a variety of cultures and traditions. Quality of content and performance, production values, and diversity are considered.
  2. Audiobooks include both fiction and non-fiction according to the same criteria as books, with the additional consideration of quality of the performance and recorded production. Audio books are collected in primarily unabridged formats, though abridged will be considered when appropriate to the topic.
  3. Videorecordings, including DVD and Blu-Ray, include contemporary and classic feature films as well as performances in music, dance, theater and comedy. The Library collects non-fiction video including, but not limited to, documentaries, health, travel, history, science, local concerns, “how-to” subjects, and self-paced instruction.

4. Downloadable Ebooks, Audiobooks, and Videos

The Library provides access to a collection of downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, and videos made available to our patrons by virtue of our membership in C/WMARS and the statewide Commonwealth eBook Collection.

5. Scores

The Library’s music score collection includes instrumental and vocal scores for popular, folk and classical works, operas and musicals, and instrumental methods. They primarily support lifelong learning in music, individual and small group performance.

6. Periodicals

The Library subscribes to popular interest periodicals, news and informational publications, and a limited number of professional journals. Selection of adult periodicals is based on community interest, budget, space considerations, and periodical holdings of other libraries in the area. Requests from patrons and gift subscriptions are considered using the same criteria. Magazines and newspapers are acquired for both casual reading and research purposes, and may be provided in both print and electronic formats.

7. Reference

Within budgetary limits, the Reference Collection provides accurate, up-to-date information on a wide range of subjects of current and recurrent interest for the layperson. Materials include print resources and online products. The Massachusetts Library System and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners provide many of the online products. Access to online products from the Boston Public Library with a BPL eCard is also available. Factors considered in the selection of reference materials are authority, reliability, scope, treatment, arrangement, format, cost, and existing holdings.

8. Local Authors

An effort is made to acquire titles by local (Northampton and the towns in the Pioneer Valley) authors, artists, and producers that are published by mainstream publishers and whose work fits within our collection development guidelines. Titles that are self-published are not added to the collection unless there is a compelling reason to do so (valuable local content, high local interest). Local authors’ works are integrated into the general collection. An exception is the Susan Howard Case Poetry Collection, which was named in memory of a local poet who contributed to the library’s rich poetry community through her volunteer service. The non-circulating collection consists of donated poetry books and chapbooks by Pioneer Valley poets and locally published literary journals.

9. Children’s and Young Adult materials

The Library collects print and audiovisual materials to stimulate creativity and to satisfy children’s and young adults’ needs for information. The materials are organized for easy access, given the varied capabilities of children and young adults.

  1. Young Adult materials are purchased for teens and include fiction, non-fiction, videos and DVDs, magazines, and spoken word tapes.
  2. Children’s and Young Adult movies are two distinct collections. We do purchase some PG-13 and a few movies that are rated R. The Movie Ratings System and an explanation of the rating system is posted for parents and caregivers.
  3. Children’s and Young Adult Reference is purchased to support the school curriculum as well as a backup for a limited circulating collection.
  4. Parenting materials for adults with children or caring for children are also provided. Materials include books, DVD’s, and magazines.
  5. The Children’s Department purchases a wide variety of materials to appeal to children and young adults from varied backgrounds and families, religious affiliations, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

As stated in Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, “Parents-and only parents-have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children – and only their children – to library resources. Librarians and governing bodies have a public and professional obligation to provide equal access to all library resources for all library users.”

10. Academic Titles

Many books are published that are too specialized, too narrowly focused, or too academic for the Library’s collection. These books may have received excellent reviews, but do not meet the needs of the general audience that frequents a public Library. Unless the content of the book is of local interest and generates significant local demand the Library does not generally purchase and add these titles to our collection. School and college textbooks are also excluded.

11. Genealogy and Local History

Copies of local history books on Northampton and other local towns are acquired for the circulating collection while in print. The circulating collection also contains historical interpretations and narratives of local history that do not fall within the domain of quick reference. Basic genealogical handbooks are acquired for the circulating collections. Local history and genealogy are covered at the research level in the Hampshire Room for Local History.

12. Documents/Special Collections

The Library collects and preserves documents and images primarily of local historical value in three collection areas:

  • Local History Department
  • Photographs/Fine Arts and Image Collections
  • Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum

Because of the very specialized nature of these collections, they are dealt with in a separate collection development policy statement.

Requests for Purchase

The Library welcomes requests for purchase of materials; however such requests will be subject to the same criteria for selection as other considered materials.

Collection Maintenance

Library collections should be fresh, exciting, and attractive. A systematic removal of materials no longer useful to the library is essential. Collection analysis is the continuous examination and thorough analysis of library materials for the purpose of maintaining and strengthening the collections. Discarding of these materials requires judgements as important as those used in original selections. With the exceptions of the Local History collection, Special Collections, and the Coolidge Museum collection, the Library does not serve an archival function. Materials which are no longer appropriate for the collection because of out-dated or incorrect content, poor condition, irrelevancy to the needs and interests of the community, or lack of use will be identified by appropriate staff members and discarded from the collection according to current, accepted professional practices.

Materials discarded because of loss, vandalism, poor condition, or outdated content will be considered for replacement.

Disposition of deaccessioned materials will be according to the Library’s discretion.


Forbes Library welcomes and appreciates donations to its collections.

Donating Books

Forbes Library is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law. The Library cannot appraise or place a dollar value on the items donated. A “Donated Goods Receipt Form” (see Appendix B) will be filled out by the donor and signed by a staff member for the donor’s tax records.

Forbes Library accepts for donation new and used books, audio books, CDs, Videos and DVDs in good, clean condition. The Library does not accept textbooks, magazines, outdated Reference books or items in poor condition (torn, worn, dirty, moldy, smelly). Please bring items to the Administrative Office or the Circulation Desk for donation.

The Library staff evaluates donations for acceptance into the collection by the same criteria for which materials are selected for purchase. See the Materials Selection part of this policy for more information. All gifts will become the property of the Trustees of Forbes Library and are retained or disposed of according to this policy’s Selection Criteria. Gifts not accepted into the collection may be put into a book sale to benefit the Library.

Gifts to Specialty Collections

Gifts are accepted based on criteria in the Collection Policy. All accepted and accessioned items become the legal property of the Trustees of Forbes Library and will be administered and governed by the Collection Policy. Items may not be left at the Library for evaluation. A “Deed of Gift Form” (see Appendix B) signed by the donor and the Library is required. For the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum or the Hampshire Room for Local History and Genealogy, please contact the Archivist to discuss your donation. For gifts of art and photography please contact the Arts & Music Librarian to discuss your donation.

Objection to Library Materials

The Library subscribes to the principles of intellectual freedom, which allows for every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. The Library provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas.

The Library also subscribes to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. Included in this statement is the commitment to honor the rights of an individual to use the Library regardless of age, race, religion, national origin, or social or political views. Accordingly, the Library staff provides equal service to all Library users.

If an individual wishes to express concern about or objects to particular Library materials, the Library will request the individual complete a Statement of Concern About Library Resources Form. The Library Director will review the title, evaluate the original decision for the purchase of the material, meet with Library staff, and meet with the individual to review the complaint. The Director will make a written ruling on the request, based on the Collection Development Policy. If the individual is not satisfied with the Director’s decision, the person may make a written request to the Board of Trustees. The Trustees’ decision is final. Procedure for Objections to Library Resources

Library employees are protected by Chapter 78, Section 33, of the General Laws of Massachusetts: Policy for Selection and Use of Library Materials and Facilities, which states that no employee shall be dismissed for the selection of Library materials when the selection is made in good faith and in accordance with the standards of the American Library Association.

Policy Review and Revision

This Collection Development Policy will be reviewed periodically by collection development staff and the Board of Trustees.

Approved by Board of Trustees: 23 October 2015.

Appendix A: American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights

Appendix B: Forms

Appendix C: Objections to Library Resources

Procedure for Objections to Library Resources