Book Selection Principles

Selection of reading materials is both an art and a science. The principles of book selection in library are important and should be done keeping in view the needs of the users. Some principles of document selection have emerged which serve as guides for librarians in making a judicious choice of a document and thereby help to develop a meaningful document collection for a library.

L. R. McColvin: Theory of Book Selection (1925): McColvin introduced his Demand and Supply Theory of Book Selection in his book ‘Theory of Book Selection for Public Libraries first published in 1925. According to him, ‘Books in themselves are nothing. They have no more meaning than the white paper upon which they are printed, until they are made serviceable by demand. The more closely book selection is related to demand, the greater is the resultant and possible service" (IGNOU, p. 23). By the term ‘Supply’ he means the availability of reading material in all its varieties, whereas ‘Demand’, refers to the users’ expressed and unexpressed informational needs. In short, this principle advocates the selection of only those documents which are demanded by the users for their informational needs.

Francis Drury: Book Selection (1930): Drury's book selection principles states ‘to provide right book to the right user at the right time’. According to this principle given by Francis K. W. Drury (Book Selection, Chicago: ALA, 1930), the READER is in the central theme. The selector should know the users and their requirements. He should select only those materials which cater to the informational, educational and recreational needs of the users. In addition, the material selected should be procured promptly and made available to the user when he actually needs it. Thus, knowing the -readers' needs and knowing the documents that can meet those needs is important in making the selection of documents.

Helen E. Haines: Living with books (1935): The first edition of ‘Living with Books: The Art of Book Selection’ published in 1935. It was one of the first true textbooks aimed at training librarians in the art of book selection. The 2nd edition came out in 1950.

Melvil Dewey's principle states, ‘the best reading for the largest number at the least cost’. According to this principle a library should select, within the financial resources available, the best documents which may satisfy the information needs of the maximum number of readers.  

S. R. Ranganathan: Library book selection (1952, reprint 1990):  The first edition of ‘Library Book Selection’ by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan appeared in 1952. The book describes how the first three laws of library science are helpful in formulating the principles of document selection for libraries.
(i)            The First Law - Books are for use - suggests that only those documents are to be selected which are of use to the readers of a particular library. While selecting the documents, the present and future requirements of the users must be kept in mind. The library should avoid the selection of costly books which are not likely to be in frequent demand.
(ii)    The Second Law - Every reader his/her book - directs the selector to cater to the informational needs of all the users of the library. The subject or the language or the style of exposition of documents to be selected should be in accordance with the requirement of the users.
(iii)         The Third Law - Every book its reader - implies that all efforts should be made to put to use those documents of value which have been selected in anticipation of the user’s needs.


IGNOU. Library Management: Information resources development. BLIS-02, Block 2 (Unit-5). New Delhi: IGNOU.

McColvin, Lionel Roy (1896-1976). Theory of book selection for public libraries. London, Grafton & co., 1925.

Self-Check Exercises

1.‘Library Book Selection’ by S. R. Ranganathan first published in __.

Answer: (D) 1952

2. ‘Living with Book: The Art of Book Selection’ is written by __.

Answer: (A) H. E. Haines

3. ‘Demand Theory of Book Selection’ was propounded by __.

Answer: (C) L. R. McColvin

4.The book 'Theory of Book Selection for Public Libraries' was first published in __.

Answer: (A) 1925

5. Who stated ‘the best reading for the largest number at the least cost’?

Answer: (B) Melvil Dewey

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