ALA’s core values and commitment to intellectual freedom and privacy guide the association’s work addressing personal privacy in the local, state, and federal legislative and policy arenas.

The right to privacy – the right to read, consider, and develop ideas and beliefs free from observation or unwanted surveillance by the government or others – is the bedrock foundation for intellectual freedom. Privacy is essential to free inquiry in the library because it enables library users to select, access, and consider information and ideas without fear of embarrassment, judgment, punishment, or ostracism. A lack of privacy in what one reads and views in the library can have a significant chilling effect upon library users’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment right to read, thereby impairing free access to ideas. True liberty of choice in the library requires both a varied selection of materials and the assurance that one's choices are not monitored.

The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society. One cannot exercise the right to read if the possible consequences include damage to one's reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace, or criminal penalties. Choice requires both a varied selection and the assurance that one's choice is not monitored. For libraries to flourish as centers for uninhibited access to information, librarians must stand behind their users' right to privacy and freedom of inquiry.


Work to positively impact privacy in libraries.

Explore why privacy is important to libraries through policy statements and resolutions.

State laws and how to respond to requests for user data.

Responses to common inquiries.

Ensure that your library’s privacy practices are consistent with its promises.

Hands-on tools to take action on privacy topics in your library.

Best practices to build your library’s privacy infrastructure.

Guidance to ensure the right to privacy for all ages.

Resources for educating staff and users.

Assistance & Consultation

The staff of the Office for Intellectual Freedom is available to answer questions, provide assistance, or consult with policy development to librarians, trustees, educators, and the public about privacy issues and resources. Inquiries can be directed via email to or via phone at (312) 280-4226.

Data Erasure Requests

The ALA Information Technology office manages data erasure requests directed to the American Library Association. Please use their Data Erasure Request Form to initiate any data erasure request.

Updated October 2021