Conducting a Challenge Hearing

If a challenge rises to the level of an appeal, your library’s reconsideration process may or may not call for a public hearing by your governing board as part of the appeal process. If it does, the following tips may be helpful.

Before the Hearing:

Brief members of the governing body on:

  • The library collection development policy
  • How the library has responded to the challenge and the decision made
  • Policies and procedures (including open meeting laws) that should be followed

Have all members of the governing body read, view, or listen to the challenged resource in its entirety.

Decide ahead of time on the length of the hearing and set definite beginning and ending times.

Announce the hearing well in advance.

Prepare a news release covering the facts, and make it available to media representatives who attend or ask questions, along with a copy of the Library Bill of Rights and your library’s collection development policy. It is important that the media and the public understand that the library’s decisions are not arbitrary, but based on a great deal of work, thought, and consultation.

Seek support from ally groups and individuals who can speak in support of the freedom to read, view, and listen, or who can send written expressions of support (e.g., attorneys, educators, students, librarians, ministers, people from the media, your state intellectual freedom committee, local colleges and universities, educational groups).

At the Hearing:

Distribute copies of the Library Bill of Rights and your library’s collection development policy.

Ask people who wish to speak to sign in.

Have the chair of the board preside. At the beginning of the hearing, she should explain the process the governing body will follow and when it will issue its decision.

Have individuals speak in the order they signed in, and appoint a timekeeper to limit each speaker to a specific amount of time. If you allow participants to speak a second time, do so only after everyone who has registered has had an opportunity to speak.


Magi, Trina J., Martin Garnar, and American Library Association. 2015. Intellectual Freedom Manual. Ninth Edition. Chicago: ALA Editions, An imprint of the American Library Association.

Purchase the complete ninth edition of the manual at the ALA store

Updated 2017