San Luis Obispo County Library, a member of the Black Gold Cooperative Library System, serves a population of over 230,000 residents of cities, towns, and rural areas that include cattle ranches, vineyards, farms, and 100 miles of scenic coastline, covering 3,304 square miles. The County is located on the Central Coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The economy is based primarily on agriculture and tourism, and state and local governments. The Library directly serves the entire County, with the exception of the City of Paso Robles, and comprises a main branch in San Luis Obispo; two regional branches in Arroyo Grande and Atascadero; four mid-sized branches in Morro Bay, Los Osos, Nipomo and Cambria; small branches in Cayucos, Shell Beach, San Miguel, Oceano, Shandon, Creston, Santa Margarita, and Simmler; and a bookmobile. Over half of the population has library cards.
The Library acquires materials that best serve the needs of its diverse public, and strives to accommodate the particular needs of individual communities. The Library makes available a broad and relevant collection for information, education and recreation, in a variety of formats, including books, magazines and newspapers, audiovisual materials and electronic resources. The Library maintains special collections of local history and community information. Customers of Black Gold Libraries have access to all circulating collections within the cooperative system through the online catalog and regular delivery of requested materials to each branch. Materials not available within Black Gold may be requested through interlibrary loan.
The Library strives to provide materials of interest to people of differing ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. While the majority of the collections are in English, branch libraries with significant numbers of Spanish-speaking customers also have small collections of popular materials in Spanish. New materials are distributed among the branches based on the needs and use patterns of individual communities and to provide equitable distribution throughout the County. Each branch maintains both circulating and reference collections. The Library affirms the public's right of access to a broad spectrum of reading, listening and viewing materials. In compliance with the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and its Freedom to Read Policy, the Library makes available information and opinion representing various points of view on topics of public interest and importance.
The San Luis Obispo County Library staff selects materials based on reviews in professional journals and other reliable media, examination of materials from publishers, subject knowledge and expertise of library staff, and recommendations from the public.
Selection committees of librarians meet regularly to evaluate new and updated titles as they are published or produced. Librarians select materials for each community based on their knowledge of the diverse needs of their customers and the regional and local branch collections. No materials are excluded or removed from the Library on the basis of the author's race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political or religious beliefs. Materials dealing with controversial views are judged as entire works, not on isolated passages or sections.
The Library staff considers these factors in selecting materials:
The Library purchases:
Librarians select materials to meet the informational, educational and recreational needs and interests of children and young adults from birth through age 16, parents, caregivers and developing readers.
The Reference Collection has non-circulating resources of print, microform and electronic media that are vital in responding to ready reference (quick answer) requests and research needs of our customers.
Electronic sources refer to online subscriptions or products offered on the library’s network or on library computer workstations. The main purpose of these sources is to supplement or replace the print collection resources. The Reference Department aims to provide effective access to the latest information available.
We select the best, most valid, current and accessible resources possible to meet the information needs of the community. The Reference Collection will be weeded on an ongoing basis.
The Reference Collection contains some local, State and Federal documents. The San Luis Obispo City Library is a partial depository of California State documents, and includes a number of Federal documents and publications applicable to the county.
The criteria used for the adding items to the Reference Collection will be the same as is applied in regard to the general collection, with emphasis on user-friendly materials with research value.
While selection criteria for electronic sources is similar to that of print resources, a most compelling reason to select the electronic alternative is the need for the most current information. Another influencing factor is the ability to easily access material without manipulating un-wieldy books requiring large amounts of shelving space. If cost is comparable to the print version, then it meets three of the most compelling reasons to choose the electronic version.
Electronic resources should be re-evaluated each budget year in regard to the above factors and usefulness/patron interest.
Local History Collections are formed to preserve and make available to the public information that directly relates to the land, people, places and qualities that make up San Luis Obispo County and its individual communities. Areas of special interest include documents dealing with water, planning and conservation, ethnic histories, political history, and history of the Hearsts - family and castle. Unlike the general Reference Collection, Local History Collections may contain ephemeral and/or outdated materials of future historical interest, their scope and make-up varying by location. Due to space and archival limitations, fragile materials, collectibles and personal papers are generally not included. A limited collection of modern and historic images is preserved electronically.
All gifts are subject to approval by the Reference Librarians. Non-copyrighted materials donated to the library require gift agreement documents signed by the donors transferring total ownership and copyright to the library.
Audiovisual materials include a wide variety of formats that complement and enhance print and electronic resources.
Review sources include: professional library review sources; distributor/producer catalogs and web sites; television and radio review programs; national and local newspapers; magazines; and the professional knowledge of librarians.
Both foreign and domestic theatrical films, television programming, and direct-to-video productions reflecting the broad interests of the patrons are acquired primarily in English and Spanish. Foreign films on video have subtitles, except for some Spanish-language titles. DVD titles with additional Spanish soundtracks and/or subtitles are selected when available. Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)-rated films are selected when available. Every effort is made to include award-winning films and films listed in the National Film Archive. Non-fiction videos and DVDs are acquired in all subject areas based on quality of production, and reliability, usefulness and currency of the information.
Recordings of local performers are selected based on content and production values. Every effort is made to include all genres of music—classical, country, folk, rock, blues, jazz, soundtracks, foreign, etc.
Every effort is made to maintain a good selection of recorded classics as well as recent titles. This format also includes some recorded broadcasts and recordings of live theatrical productions, and language-learning kits. Abridged titles are purchased only if an unabridged version has not been produced. Because individual parts of books on tape/CD are subject to loss and damage, materials are acquired through vendors that offer parts replacement.
Magazines and newspapers in print, microform, or electronic format are an important part of the Library's research collection and are intended to complement the book collection. Magazines and newspapers are purchased to keep the materials collection up to date on current issues and to provide material not in book form.
Donation of subscriptions must meet the above criteria and be pre-aproved.
Maintenance of the library’s collection through continuous re-evaluation by the library staff ensures its usefulness and relevancy to the community. This evaluation depends heavily on the staff’s professional expertise in assessing the needs of the community and the overall content of the collection. Materials determined to no longer be of value are withdrawn from the collection.
The Library accepts gifts of new or used books, magazines, and other library materials that meet the same standards as other materials selected for inclusion in the library’s collection. In accepting gifts, the Library reserves the right to decide which gifts will be added to the library collection, which will be given to other libraries, and which will be sold in the Friends of the Libraries' book sales. Receipts for gifts indicate the type and number of items donated. The donor is responsible for deciding the value of donated items.
Library users occasionally question titles that have been selected for the collection. Persons seeking the reconsideration of a book, videocassette, compact disc, or other item may complete a "Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials." Upon receipt of a completed form, Library staff reviews the item for inclusion in the collection in light of the library's overall objectives, its Collection Development Policy, the Library Bill of Rights, and American Library Association guidelines on intellectual freedom.