Our Collection Development Team researches each title, listens to input from customers like you and ultimately decides what materials go onto our libraries' shelves and into our digital media catalog. In this section, you will learn how they make purchasing decisions, how to suggest a title we might have missed, what we do with worn-out or damaged books and answers to many other collection-related frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I ask the library to buy a book I want to read?
Purchase suggestions for all formats can be made using this form. Check the catalog to see if we've added your suggestion so that you can place your hold. Common reasons for not being able to purchase items include price, the format you requested is not available for purchase, or it does not align with our collection policy.
I'm a local author, how do I get my book in the library?
Collection Development staff considers all suggested titles against factors such as the HCPL Collection Development policy, current budget and space limitations at branches.
Please see our Author Submission Policy
Does HCPL accept book donations?
HCPL branches each have a Friends of the Library group which sells books to raise money for programs and the purchase of new books for the branch they support. If this doesn't fit your needs, other options include second-hand bookstores, resale shops, and an organization named Better World Books (www.betterworldbooks.com) which accepts donated books in support of non-profit literacy organizations.
For more information, see our Gift and Donation Policy
How do I donate a book in memory of someone?
Contact your local branch and we will be happy to help you with this process.
What does it mean when the catalog says an item is on order?
"On order" means that the library has placed an order for that item and is waiting for it to arrive. Collection Development orders items up to 90 days before the title is released, so sometimes you see an "on order" record for longer while the library waits for the item to be released. You can place a hold on an "on order" item, but we're not able to tell you exactly when you'll get your item.
Why don't you have all the books in my favorite series?
Sometimes books go out of print and we are unable to purchase new copies. This happens often with long-running popular series. Sometimes different publishers own the rights to different formats of the same title, so we may not be able to purchase all formats. This happens most often with digital books and audiobooks. Please submit a purchase suggestion for any missing titles so that we can see if your title is available for purchase. www.hcpl.net/form/book-or-title-purchase-suggestion
Why is the book I want at other branches, but not at my branch?
Due to budget and branch size limitations, we aren't able to order copies of every title we purchase for all 26 of our branches. You can place a hold request on the item you want, and it will be delivered to your local branch for pick-up.
I want materials in a language other than English. What does HCPL have?
We currently focus on books in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese. Most branches have Spanish collections, but Aldine, Katherine Tyra at Bear Creek, Barbara Bush at Cypress Creek, Cy-Fair, North Channel, Octavia Fields and South Houston have sizable Spanish collections. Other sizable language collections are located at the following branches: Chinese (Cy-Fair, Freeman & Maud Marks), Vietnamese (Cy-Fair, Maud Marks, Parker Williams).
How do you decide which languages to purchase?
We consider information such as census data and community input, as well as availability of materials from U.S. vendors. Due to limitations on what is available for purchase in the United States through our vendors, we are not always able to purchase materials in a language that we know would be used by those living in the communities we serve.
Do you offer special formats such as Braille or access to programs such as Talking Books?
We have a small collection of items available in Braille, including board books. Ask staff at your local branch about the availability of these items and they'll be happy to help. In addition to the eAudiobooks available through our Overdrive (https://hcpl.overdrive.com/) and RBDigital Collections (http://harriscotx.oneclickdigital.com/), staff at your local branch can assist you with getting set up for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission's Talking Book Program. You can learn more about it here. ( https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/index.html)
I have concerns about an item in your collection. Who do I talk to about it?
If you have concerns about an item in our collection, please feel free to share that concern with staff at your local branch or contact HCPL Collection Development at [email protected] HCPL Collection Development policy includes a process for reconsideration of materials. Customers wanting to begin this process may fill out the following form: Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of Material.
How do I request an item that HCPL doesn't own from another library system?
Interlibrary Loan is a service that allows us to borrow items for HCPL library card holders from other participating library systems throughout the United States. You can read more about that service here. www.hcpl.net/about/interlibrary-loan
Why is a book that used to be in the library not there anymore?
Sometimes books go missing or lost from our collection or they become damaged and need to be retired. Library staff also regularly review the collection and retire items that are out-of-date, in poor condition or no longer of interest to make room for new items.
What does the library do with books they retire from the collection?
HCPL sends retired library materials to Better World Books, a company who recycles and sells materials as well as providing books to communities in need around the world. Harris County policy does not allow the library to resell library materials.
Does the library carry textbooks?
HCPL does not purchase textbooks due to budgetary restrictions. Please contact your school or university library for these kinds of materials.
What kinds of items does the library offer?
Harris County Public Library offers books, audiobooks, DVDs, Blurays, newspapers, magazines, eBooks, eAudiobooks, digital magazines, digital newspapers and streaming movies.
How does the library decide what to spend money on?
HCPL is a popular materials library, meaning that we provide materials for pleasure reading and lifelong learning. All items added to the collection are evaluated by professional staff to ensure that the library’s collection is dynamic and evolving to reflect the needs and interests of our customers and communities. Factors which may be considered are popularity, balance of viewpoints, timeliness, accuracy of information, format, durability, and cost.
For more detailed information about HCPL collection purchasing, see Collections Policy
What magazines and newspapers are in the library's collection?
Each HCPL branch has a collection of magazines and newspapers tailored to the wants and needs of the surrounding community. Visit our Magazines & Newspapers page for a complete list of periodicals and the branches that carry them.