Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries:
An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
A strong intellectual freedom perspective is critical to the development of academic library collections, services, and instruction that dispassionately meets the education and research needs of a college or university community. The purpose of this statement is to outline how and where intellectual freedom principles fit into an academic library setting, thereby raising consciousness of the intellectual freedom context within which academic librarians work. The following principles should be reflected in all relevant library policy documents.
- The general principles set forth in the Library Bill of Rights form an indispensable framework for building collections, services, and policies that serve the entire academic community.
- The privacy of library users is and must be inviolable. Policies should be in place that maintain confidentiality of library borrowing records and of other information relating to personal use of library information and services.
- The development of library collections in support of an institution’s instruction and research programs should transcend the personal values of the selector. In the interests of research and learning, it is essential that collections contain materials representing a variety of perspectives on subjects that may be considered controversial.
- Preservation and replacement efforts should ensure that balance in library materials is maintained and that controversial materials are not removed from the collections through theft, loss, mutilation, or normal wear and tear. There should be alertness to efforts by special interest groups to bias a collection though systematic theft or mutilation.
- Licensing agreements should be consistent with the Library Bill of Rights, and should maximize access.
- Open and unfiltered access to the Internet should be conveniently available to the academic community in a college or university library. Content filtering devices and content-based restrictions are a contradiction of the academic library mission to further research and learning through exposure to the broadest possible range of ideas and information. Such restrictions are a fundamental violation of intellectual freedom in academic libraries.
- Freedom of information and of creative expression should be reflected in library exhibits and in all relevant library policy documents.
- Library meeting rooms, research carrels, exhibit spaces, and other facilities should be available to the academic community regardless of research being pursued or subject being discussed. Any restrictions made necessary because of limited availability of space should be based on need, as reflected in library policy, rather than on content of research or discussion.
- Whenever possible, library services should be available without charge in order to encourage inquiry. Where charges are necessary, a free or low-cost alternative (e.g., downloading to disc rather than printing) should be available when possible.
- A service philosophy should be promoted that affords equal access to information for all in the academic community with no discrimination on the basis of race, age, values, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural or ethnic background, physical, sensory, cognitive or learning disability, economic status, religious beliefs, or views.
- A procedure ensuring due process should be in place to deal with requests by those within and outside the academic community for removal or addition of library resources, exhibits, or services.
- It is recommended that this statement of principle be endorsed by appropriate institutional governing bodies, including the faculty senate or similar instrument of faculty governance.
Approved by ACRL Board of Directors: June 29, 1999 and adopted July 12, 2000, by the ALA Council; amended on July 1, 2014.
From a letter dated November 15, 2000, to Judith F. Krug, director, Office for Intellectual Freedom, from the American Association of University Professors:
A copy of the new ACRL/ALA statement on Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: An Interpretation of the ‘Library Bill of Rights’ was forwarded to one of our Council members and considered by the AAUP Council in its meeting on November 11, 2000.
The AAUP Council is pleased to endorse the statement, but wishes to preface that endorsement with the following language from the Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians, as contained in AAUP: Policy Documents and Reports, 1995 edition:
“College and university librarians share the professional concerns of faculty members. Academic freedom, for example, is indispensable to librarians, because they are trustees of knowledge with the responsibility of ensuring the availability of information and ideas, no matter how controversial, so that teachers may freely teach and students may freely learn. Moreover, as members of the academic community, librarians should have latitude in the exercise of their professional judgment within the library, a share in shaping policy within the institution, and adequate opportunities for professional development and appropriate reward.”
Please convey to the members of the ACRL Board and ALA Council our concern that college and university librarians are designated the same rights afforded to other faculty in regard to intellectual freedom.