Skip to Main Content

Public Library Director Toolkit

General Information

"Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored." —American Library Association

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, age, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Although the Articles of the Library Bill of Rights are unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries, questions do arise concerning application of these principles to specific library practices. These documents are policies of the American Library Association and have been adopted by the ALA Council.‚Äč

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups, or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous...Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove information they judge inappropriate or dangerous from public access, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it.  (ALA)

The First Amendment gives every person in the United States the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations (ALA). To help protect your library and its patrons against censorship, your library board should have a Collection Development policy that includes the adoption of the Freedom to Read Statement, Library Bill of Rights, as well as a Request to Reconsider Materials form. 

Censorship extends past just books and movies. In recent years, libraries have found programs being challenged. To be prepared for an instance like this, some libraries have expanded their reconsideration form to include all instances that a patron may find objectionable.

The filtering of internet content is considered censorship by ALA. To see their resources as filtering relates to CIPA and E-Rate, see their website.

The Freedom to Read Statement, originally issued in 1953 by the American Library Association and Association of American Publishers, is one of the defining statements for librarians. In it, you will find the core tenets and beliefs of the library profession including open access, diversity, democracy, and freedom from censorship.

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.