Cleveland Public Library Collection Development Policy Introduction

I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me. So I have a special place for every library, in my heart of hearts.

Maya Angelou

The People’s University

Cleveland Public Library strives to be the one resource in the city of Cleveland where anyone can simply show up, in person or virtually, and receive the knowledge, services, inspiration, and sense of community that enables them to achieve their dreams.

From the groundbreaking success of being the first urban public library in the United States to allow patrons direct access to its book collection in 1890, and as the first public library in the world to circulate eBooks in 2003, Cleveland Public Library has a long history of embracing innovation to serve its community.

To accomplish that mission and to fulfill its role as The People’s University, Cleveland Public Library develops print and digital collections that anticipate and serve the varied creative, educational, economic, professional, and recreational needs of a large and diverse community. In undertaking this work, the Library’s primary challenge is deciding how to deploy its generous, yet limited, tax dollars to acquire the library service materials that most effectively serve the whole community.

Although the Cleveland Public Library Collection Development Policy is designed to serve as an essential framework for the development of relevant and responsive collections, it is through the daily work of library professionals, who interpret the Policy using their experience, observations, and usage data, that truly meaningful collections are developed. A significant measure of the Library’s success in this work has been the public’s consistent passage of tax support levies with a formidable margin of approval.

Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Collections

Cleveland Public Library consciously and continuously innovates to serve the information and service needs of specific populations of people who have historically experienced unequal treatment in society. Core to this Collection Development Policy is language that emphasizes the development of collections that are diverse, equitable, accessible, inclusive, and responsive to the complex needs of the whole community, and that present an unabridged range of human expression and experience.

A Living Document

The first comprehensive Collection Development Policy was introduced in January 1982, and the last full-scale review of the Policy occurred in July 1985. Since that time, collection development practices evolved according to both formal revisions of various sections and informal practices that responded to changing needs.

Previous Collection Development Policies were considered administrative guidelines and were not presented to the Library Board for adoption. As a matter of transparency and accountability to the public we serve, this Policy was presented to the Library Board for adoption on November 18, 2021. As of that date, the Policy was 80% complete. Branch library and digital media policies remained under development, with an expected completion date of December 2022.

The Collection Development Policy is a living document through which collection decisions will continuously evolve. Changes to the document will be presented to the Board of Trustees annually in January. A complete copy of the current Board-approved Policy will be available on CPL’s website for anyone in the world to view and download.

Collections Overview

The Objectives of Print-Based and Digital Media Collections are both complementary and dynamic. While the percentage of the Library Service Materials budget dedicated to either print and digital collections will continue to shift, one objective remains constant: developing collections that are relevant to the whole community.

Branch Library print collections are developed as popular, current interest resources.

Main Library print collections are largely developed as general interest (Collection Level 3) resources, covering a broad scope of individual subjects as outlined in Appendix A: Table of Selection Guidelines by Library of Congress Classification. As a part of the review process, subjects historically developed at Level 4 (research) and Level 5 (comprehensive) were reviewed for all Main Library collections, resulting in a reduction in some areas and an increase in others (all changes are noted in Appendix A).

Subjects Collected at the Research Level

Throughout all Main Library departments, published works relating to the African American Experience and Cleveland/Northeast Ohio subjects are collected at the research level. As of 2021, Main Library collections hold more than 59,000 works relating to African American history and culture, unquestionably among the largest such collections in the United States. In addition, the Library provides access to more than 50 archival African American history collections through its Microform Collection.

Additional subjects* collected at the research level include the following:

  1. African History (Center for Local and Global History)
  2. American History (North, South & Central America) (Center for Local and Global History)
  3. American Literature and the English Language (Literature)
  4. Architecture & Building Technology (Schweinfurth Trust Fund) (Special Collections, Science & Technology)
  5. Asian, African, and Oceanic Studies (pre-1800, pre-Colonial Era) (White Trust Fund) (Special Collections)
  6. Books and Bookmaking (Thompson Trust Fund) (Special Collections)
  7. Chess (White Trust Fund) (Special Collections)
  8. Comics (Literature)
  9. Dogs: American Kennel Club (AKC) Dog Breeds (Science & Technology)
  10. Drama & Theater of the United States, with a special focus on Cleveland (Literature)
  11. Fiction (English Language & World Languages, all time periods, the collective imaginative output of the world for all ages) (Literature, International Languages, Youth Services)
  12. Folklore: worldwide, all eras (White Trust Fund) (Special Collections)
  13. Genealogy (Center for Local and Global History) (Note: Newer material is mostly in databases such as Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest, etc.)
  14. Patents (Science & Technology)
  15. Sports: Baseball & Cleveland Sports (Sports Research Center)
  16. Visual Arts (Thompson Trust Fund) (Fine Arts, Special Collections)

*Subjects that are developed using endowment funds include the name of the associated fund.

The Policy includes specific collection levels for all 50 language collections in International Languages. The Library responds to the language needs of existing and newly identified immigrant communities.

Using the Policy

The sections of the Collection Development Policy are designed to be used as follows:

  • A. The General Policies and the General Criteria relating to the selection of Library Service Materials apply to all materials acquired for the Cleveland Public Library. Any staff member responsible for the selection of Library Service Materials must first consider these policies and criteria.
  • B. The second level of decision-making is at the level of the Type of Material acquired for the Library. The policies for each type of material provide specific guidelines regarding
  • what kinds of Library Service Materials staff may select for Branch and Main Library collections.
  • C. Policies at the agency/collection level provide context and further guidance for selectors responsible for Main Library, Branch Library (under development), or Digital Media (under development) collections.
  • D. Appendix A: Table of Selection Guidelines for Library of Congress Classifications includes collecting levels for subjects across Main Library collections. Departments with primary responsibility for each subject are highlighted in red.
  • E. Appendix B consists of Endowment Collection Policies.
  • F. Section 1100 consists of Weeding, Withdrawal, and Disposal Policies for Main Library and Branch Libraries.

Succession Planning Resource

In addition to providing selection and deselection guidance, this Policy embodies a vast trove of historical information on the Main Library collections, as researched in the Cleveland Public Library Archives. Each of the 18 policies for Main Library departments and specialized collections includes sections on “Collection Strengths” and “Unique Resources and Collections.” This information will enable new staff to become immediately acquainted with the most important aspects of their collections, and it will also serve as valuable content for research guides to the collections. Appendix B: Endowment Fund Policies, consists of historical information and selection guidelines for all endowments used to purchase Library Service Materials.


I would like to thank Michael Ruffing, Special Projects Manager, for his leadership in overhauling the Collection Development Policy. Mr. Ruffing worked continuously throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to research, compile, analyze, and write the Policy as completed thus far. His work included numerous meetings, interviews, and policy draft reviews with the following people: John Skrtic, Chief of Special Projects and Collections; Harriette Parks, Chief of Public Services; Robin Wood, Senior Director of Public Services, Main Library; and Main Library

Department Managers Donald Boozer, Sarah Dobransky, Pamela Eyerdam, Sarah Flinn, Olivia Hoge, Annisha Jeffries, and Milos Markovic. Each Main Library Manager, in turn, met extensively with their own staff, who freely contributed suggestions, content, and corrections. Finally, I extend a special thank-you to Laura Walter for proofreading the entire Policy; to Nancy Mocsiran for building the Collection Development Policy portal on the Staff Intranet; and to Melissa Carr for her assistance in perfecting the formatting of the document.

Felton Thomas, Jr.
Executive Director, CEO
Cleveland Public Library