Policy Regarding Complaints about Library Materials in the Collection


The choice of library materials by users is an individual matter. While a person may reject materials for himself or herself, he/she cannot exercise censorship to restrict access to the materials by others.

It is the Library's goal to have up-to-date and accurate information in the collection. When a user brings an item to the attention of staff because it is outdated or inaccurate, it is considered helpful information rather than a collection complaint. The item should be forwarded to Collection Services with written information about the nature of the inaccuracies. The selection staff will evaluate the item, consider reviews, and make a decision about withdrawing it from the collection. They will also check to see if more up-to-date information is available. If the user wishes to receive a written response, his/her name and address should be forwarded to Collection Services with the information about the item.

Recognizing that a diversity of materials may result in some requests for reconsideration, the following procedures have been developed to assure that complaints are handled in an attentive and consistent manner.

  1. The person with a complaint about materials in the collection should be referred immediately to the branch manager or the person in charge in the absence of the branch manager. The person in charge should explain to the user that selections are made in accordance with the Selection Policy of the Fairfax County Public Library's Board of Trustees. The person in charge should then decide how best to handle the complaint. In most cases, a discussion about the specific title can resolve the issue satisfactorily at the branch level. A discussion of the reasons why a specific title would be selected for the Library system, how it would be used, its intended audience, and an offer to help the library user find materials more to his/her liking is usually sufficient.
  2. Complaints about the collection are to be logged on a Collection Complaint Log. These forms are to be sent to Collection Services monthly, where they will be compiled. A monthly summary of complaints about titles in the system's collection will be sent to Library management staff and the Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees to maintain awareness of collection issues.
  3. If the user is not satisfied with an explanation of the selection policy and the role of the title in the collection, the person in charge should offer the following:
    1. A Request for Reconsideration by Staff Committee

      The user may write a letter, or fill out the FCPL complaint form stating the specifics of the objection or complaint, to the branch manager. The branch manager is to respond in writing to the user, advising him/her that there will be reconsideration of the item after the user's letter has been forwarded to the Coordinator of Collection Services. A copy of "Collection Development at the Fairfax County Public Library" should be included with the branch manager's letter.

    2. After receiving the original letter from the patron and a copy of the branch manager's letter, the coordinator will appoint a review committee of three professional staff members to reconsider the item. The reviewers will be sent copies of the user's letter and any reviews available.
    3. Within 30 days, the reviewers will put their recommendations in writing to the coordinator, who will make a decision about the item's role in the collection.
    4. The coordinator will return the reviewer's comments to the branch manager, with any available reviews and a memo conveying the decision about the item.
    5. The branch manager will then write to the user regarding the decision, sending a copy of the letter to the coordinator. Staff reviews are to be shared only with Library staff and the Library Board, unless the Director specifically decides that they may be released. Brief quotes, however, may be used in the branch manager's letter to the user.
    6. The Coordinator of Collection Services will prepare a packet of information for each request for reconsideration, consisting of the staff reviewers' comments, the coordinators decision, and the branch manager's response. This packet will be sent to library management staff.

    This process is a complex one and will take approximately two months to complete.

  4. If the user desires further action, he/she may appeal to the Library Director in writing. He/she will receive a written response from the Director in two weeks.
  5. A letter written to the Director by a user asking for reconsideration of a title in the collection will follow the same process.
    1. The Director will respond to the user, sending a copy of "Collection Development at the Fairfax County Public Library."
    2. The Coordinator of Collection Services will appoint a review committee, who will receive a copy of the user's letter and any review available.
    3. Within 30 days, the reviewers will put their recommendations in writing to the coordinators, who will make a decision about the item's role in the collection.
    4. The coordinator will return the reviewers' comments to the Director with any available reviews and a memo conveying the decision about the item.
    5. The Director will then write a letter to the user regarding the decision, sending a copy of the letter to the coordinator. Staff reviews are to be shared only with Library staff and the Library Board, unless the Director specifically decides that they may be released.
    6. The Coordinator of Collection Services will prepare a packet of information for each request for reconsideration, consisting of the user's letter of complaint, any reviews available, the staff reviewers' comments, the coordinator's decision, and the Director's response. This packet will be sent to Library management staff.

    This process will take approximately two months to complete.

  6. If the user is not satisfied with the response from the Director, he/she may appeal to the Library Board of Trustees in writing.

    The user's letter, professional and staff reviews, the coordinator's decision, the branch manager's response and/or the Director's letter, and any other information the Board believes necessary, will provide the basis upon which the Board of Trustees will make its decision.


Library | Catalog | Account Services | Locations & Hours | Online Resources | Events
ReadersLink | Research | Get Involved | Community Outreach | Newsroom | Mobile

Email your suggestions and comments to
Library Customer Service or the Library Director.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

ADA Accessibility | Website Accessibility
Awards | FOIA | Mobile | Using this Site | Web Disclaimer & Privacy Policy | Get Adobe Reader
Official site of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, © Copyright 2013

Website Feedback Website Feedback    Globe with various flags representing Web site language translations   Language Translations

Return to Graphic Version