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Intellectual Freedom Basics

Below are links to information on basic intellectual freedom principles, including links to the fundamental principles of American and international libraries.

Links to Information on Basic Intellectual Freedom Principles

Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Office for Intellectual Freedom necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and OIF do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.

Mail comments on OIF Web site to nperez@ala.org



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Intellectual Freedom Issues
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American Library Basics
"Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment." — Article 3, Library Bill of Rights

Censorship Basics
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” — Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. in Texas v. Johnson

First Amendment Basics
Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. — First Amendment

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q&A
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.

International Intellectual Freedom Basics
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.--Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

International Library Basics
"Libraries shall make materials, facilities and services equally accessible to all users. There shall be no discrimination due to race, creed, gender, age or for any other reason." --IFLA Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom

Internet Censorship
"Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks, put up fences, and deploy pool alarms. All these measures are helpful, but by far the most important thing that one can do for one's children is to teach them to swim."--National Research Council, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet

Intellectual Freedom, ALAAction No. 2 in a series
Intellectual Freedom is one of five key actions areas adopted by the American Library Association to fulfill its mission of providing the highest quality library and information services for all people. The public’s right to explore in their libraries many points of view on all questions and issues facing them is critical to that mission. This revised brochure (December 2004) highlights ALA’s activities in this area and invites your support.

Not Censorship But Selection
"Not Censorship But Selection," by Lester Asheim, was first published in the Wilson Library Bulletin, 28 (September 1953), 63-67. Permission to mount this article on the ALA OIF Web site was granted to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom in November 2005 by Michael Frank, Lester Asheim's cousin.

Lester Asheim in Cyberspace
"The major characteristic which makes for the all-important difference seems to be this: that the selector's approach is positive, while that of the censor is negative," Asheim said. "The aim of the selector is to promote reading, not to inhibit it; to multiply the points of view which will find expression, not limit them; to be a channel for communication, not a bar against it. . . . Selection seeks to protect the right of the reader to read; censorship seeks to protect—not the right—but the reader himself from the fancied effects of his reading. The selector has faith in the intelligence of the reader; the censor has faith only in his own."

What You Can Do to Oppose Censorship
"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."--Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

ALA Intellectual Freedom Policies and the First Amendment
From time to time, the Foundation receives questions regarding the relationship of the ALA intellectual freedom policies to the First Amendment. People often want to know whether or not ALA’s policies go beyond the First Amendment. Since the question is key to Foundation activities, we asked our counsel to comment. His response follows.

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