The Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement were crafted in times of looming censorship and privacy threats. They’ve stood the test of time and remain fundamental declarations of librarian values.
Both documents are needed now more than ever.
The Office for Intellectual Freedom invites librarians to print and distribute a free downloadable pamphlet that includes both documents to colleagues, board members, and patrons. (Click on the pamphlet cover below for a printable PDF version.) Remind your community that libraries will stand for free expression and against censorship; they will remain safe havens to protect ideas, as well as challenge them.
A full-size Library Bill of Rights poster is available to purchase from the ALA Store.
Library Bill of Rights History
First drafted by library director Forrest Spaulding in 1938, the bill was designed to speak out against the “growing intolerance, suppression of free speech and censorship affecting the rights of minorities and individuals.”
One year later, the revised document was adopted by the American Library Association. It has since evolved to include topics such as book banning, race and gender discrimination, and exhibit spaces. Based on the First Amendment, the Library Bill of Rights guides librarians in serving their communities and protecting the rights of all patrons.
Freedom to Read Statement History
“The freedom to read is essential to our democracy.”
The first sentence to the 1954 Freedom to Read statement remains the influential opening sentence today.
In 1953, a group of professors, directors, librarians, publishers and businessmen met to “discuss the current wave of censorship and attacks on books and libraries.” They created a document that defined the responsibilities of publishers and librarians to protect Americans’ freedom to read. Since its inception, the statement has been altered during times of violence and prosecution to defend the reading choices of readers – it remains a rallying proclamation for all literary community members.