Economic Barriers to Information Access

[last update 8 October 2003]

The Library Bill of Rights protects intellectual freedom regardless of economic status.  Barriers include fees for information resources and services at publicly-supported libraries.

KEY ACTION/PRIORITY AREAS: Equity of Access, Intellectual Freedom, Legislation/Funding, Library Services/Development/Technology
RELATED ISSUES:  Digital Divide, Freedom to Read & Freedom of Expression, Library Funding




  • ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom/Intellectual Freedom Committee
  • ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach/OLOS Advisory Committee
  • ALA Divisions



  • 1936 - The [ALA] Library Extension Board and Committee on Planning produced The Equal Chance: Books Help to Make It.
  • 1977 - The Ad Hoc Committee on Equal Access to Information recommended to the ALA Executive Board that funds be sought to study the extent and effect of fees for library service.  The ALA Office for Research conducted the study (with partial support from the Council on Library Resources and BRS, Lockheed and SDC) and published the findings in Financing Online Search Services in Publicly-Supported Libraries.
  • 1977 - ALA Council reaffirmed its support for free access, in opposition to "fee-for-service."  <note "reaffirmed" - when was this first affirmed by ALA?>
  • 1978 - A special task force appointed by ALA President Eric Moon presented "Toward a Conceptual Foundation for a National Information Policy" for discussion:  " All information must be available to all people in all formats purveyed through all communication channels and delivered at all levels of comprehension.  If any one of these five qualities is compromised, the whole is enervated, and the national enterprise as a consequence suffers."
  • 1983 - The Commission on Freedom and Equality of Access to Information was appointed; the final Report was released in 1986.
  • 1989 - ALA Council established a Coordinating Committee on Access to Information, " facilitate the development and maintenance of a comprehensive set of information access policies for ALA; to promote communication on access issues among ALA units and suggest areas for coordination; to monitor access activities outside ALA; to support and develop coalitions; and, to identify needed research on access issues...."
  • 1989 - A pre-WHCLIS "position paper" in American Libraries outlined a rationale for ALA's engagement in national policy advocacy: " Today's public libraries and increasingly those of the future must be enabled to function within a nationwide and even global information infrastructure.  In a world increasingly dependent upon knowledge and the ability to acquire it, the problems of those with limited access to information will only be exacerbated...."
  • 1991 - ALA Council approved "Library Services to the Poor": " is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies."
  • 1993 - ALA Council adopted Economic Barriers to Information Access, an Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.


Issue Summaries

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