Texts of policies are available from the Office for Intellectual Freedom, ALA Headquarters, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.
53.1 Library Bill of Rights
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
- Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
- Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
- Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
- Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
- A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
- Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
Adopted June 18, 1948. Amended February 2, 1961, June 27, 1967, and January 23, 1980, by the ALA Council.
Challenged materials which meet the criteria for selection in the materials selection policy of the library should not be removed under any legal or extra-legal pressure. Adopted 1971, revised 1990.
(See "Current Reference File": Challenged Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1989-90 CD #61.2.)
Expurgation of any parts of books or other library resources by the library, its agent, or its parent institution is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights because it denies access to the complete work, and, therefore, to the entire spectrum of ideas that the work was intended to express. Adopted 1973; amended 1981, 1990.
(See "Current Reference File": Expurgation of Library Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, revised 1990. 1989-90 CD #61.3.)
Members of the school community involved in the collection development process employ educational criteria to select resources unfettered by their personal, political, social, or religious views. Students and educators served by the school library media program have access to resources and services free of constraints resulting from personal, partisan, or doctrinal disapproval and which reflect the linguistic pluralism of the community. School library media professionals resist efforts by individuals or groups to define what is appropriate for all students or teachers to read, view, hear or access via electronic means. Adopted 1986, revised 1990, 2000.
(See "Current Reference File": Access to Resources and Services in the School Library Media Program: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4.)
>Denying minors access to certain library materials and services available to adults is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights. Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents--and only parents--have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children--to library resources. Adopted 1972, amended 1981, 1992.
(See "Current Reference File": Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)
Evaluation of library materials is not to be used as a convenient means to remove materials presumed to be controversial or disapproved of by segments of the community. Adopted 1973, amended 1981.
(See "Current Reference File": Evaluating Library Collections: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)
Attempts to restrict library materials violate the basic tenets of the Library Bill of Rights. Policies to protect library materials for reasons of physical preservation, protection from theft, or mutilation must be carefully formulated and administered with extreme attention to the principles of intellectual freedom. Adopted 1973, amended 1981, 1991, and 2000.
(See "Current Reference File": Restricted Access to Library Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4.)
Describing or designating certain library materials by affixing a prejudicial label to them or segregating by a prejudicial system is an attempt to prejudice attitudes and, as such, is a censor's tool; such practices violate the Library Bill of Rights. A variety of private organizations promulgate rating systems and/or review materials as a means of advising either their members or the general public concerning their opinions of the contents and suitability or appropriate age for use of certain books, films, recordings, or other materials. For the library to adopt or enforce any of these private systems, to attach such ratings to library materials, to include them in bibliographic records, library catalogs, or other finding aids, or otherwise to endorse them would violate the Library Bill of Rights. Adopted 1951, amended 1971, 1981, 1990.
(See "Current Reference File": Statement on Labeling: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)
Libraries maintaining exhibit spaces and bulletin boards for outside groups and individuals should develop and publish statements governing use to assure that space is provided on a equitable basis to all groups which request it. A publicly supported library may limit use of its exhibit space to strictly "library related" activities, provided that the limitation is clearly circumscribed and is viewpoint neutral. Libraries may include in this policy rules regarding the time, place, and the manner of use of the exhibit space, so long as the rules are content neutral and are applied in the same manner to all groups wishing to use the space. Adopted 1991.
(See "Current Reference File": Exhibit Spaces and Bulletin Boards: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)
Libraries maintaining meeting room facilities should develop and publish statements governing use. These statements can properly define time, place, or manner of use; such qualifications should not pertain to the content of a meeting or to the beliefs or affiliations of the sponsors. If meeting rooms in libraries supported by public funds are made available to the general public for non-library sponsored events, the library may not exclude any group based on the subject matter to be discussed or based on the ideas that the group advocates. A publicly supported library may limit use of its meeting rooms to strictly "library related" activities, provided that the limitation is clearly circumscribed and is viewpoint neutral. Adopted 1991.
(See "Current Reference File": Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)
A policy on library-initiated programming should set forth the library's commitment to free access to information and ideas for all users. Library staff select programs based on the interests and information needs of the community. Libraries servicing multilingual or multicultural communities should make efforts to accommodate the information needs of those for whom English is a second language. Adopted 1982, amended, 1990 and 2000.
(See "Current Reference File": Library-Initiated Programs as a Resource: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4)
Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive, not exclusive, in collection development and in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all materials legally obtainable should be assured to the user and policies should not unjustly exclude materials even if offensive to the librarian or the user. Collection development should reflect the philosophy inherent in Article 2 of the Library Bill of Rights. A balanced collection reflects diversity of materials, not equality of numbers. Collection development responsibilities include selecting materials in the languages in common use in the community which the library serves. Collection development and the selection of materials should be done according to professional standards and established selection and review procedures.
Librarians have an obligation to protect library collections from removal of materials based on personal bias or prejudice, and to select and support the acquisition of materials on all subjects that meet, as closely as possible, the needs and interest of all persons in the community which the library serves. This includes materials that reflect political, economic, religious, social, minority, and sexual issues. Adopted 1982, amended 1990.
(See "Current Reference File": Diversity in Collection Development: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1989-90 CD #61.3.)
The American Library Association believes that freedom of expression is an inalienable human right, necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance of oppression, and crucial to the cause of justice, and further, that the principles of freedom of expression should be applied by libraries and librarians throughout the world. Adopted 1989.
(See "Current Reference File": The Universal Right to Free Expression: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1990-91 CD #18.1.)
Recognizing that libraries cannot act in loco parentis, policies which set minimum age limits for access to videotapes and/or audiovisual material and equipment with or without parental permission abridge library use for minors. Nevertheless, ALA acknowledges and supports the exercise by parents of their responsibility to guide their own children's viewing, using published reviews of films and videotapes and/or reference works which provide information about the content, subject matter, and recommended audiences. Adopted 1989, revised 1991.
See "Current Reference File": Access for Children and Young People to Videotapes and Other Nonprint Resources: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1988-89 CD #92.6.)
The American Library Association opposes the charging of user fees for the provision of information by all libraries and information services that receive their major support from public funds. All information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users. The ALA opposes any legislative or regulatory attempt to impose content restrictions on library resources, or to limit user access to information, as a condition of funding for publicly supported libraries and information services. Adopted 1993.
(See also Policies 50.3, 50.8, 60.1, and 61.1.)
(See "Current Reference File": Economic Barriers to Information Access: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1992-93 CD #26.6.2.)
The American Library Association stringently and unequivocally maintains that libraries and librarians have an obligation to resist efforts that systematically exclude materials dealing with any subject matter, including gender or sexual orientation. The Association also encourages librarians to proactively support the First Amendment rights of all library users regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Adopted 1993. Revised 2000. (See "Current Reference File": Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Gender or Sexual Orientation: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4)
(See "Current Reference File": Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Gender or Sexual Orientation: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4)
The ALA affirms that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights.
(See "Current Reference File": Resolution on the Use of Filtering Software in Libraries, 1996-97 CD#19.4)
The American Library Association stringently and unequivocally maintains that libraries and librarians have an obligation to resist efforts that systematically exclude materials dealing with any subject matter, including gender or sexual orientation. The Association also encourages librarians to proactively support the First Amendment rights of all library users regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Adopted 1993. Revised 2000.
(See "Current Reference File": Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Gender or Sexual Orientation: An Intrepretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1999-2000 CD#19.4)
53.2 Freedom to View
The American Library Association endorses Freedom to View, a statement of the American Film and Video Association.
(See "Current Reference File": Freedom to View, revised 1990; 1989-90 CD #61.5.)
53.3 Freedom to Read
The American Library Association endorses Freedom to Read, a joint statement by the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers.
(See "Current Reference File": Freedom to Read.)
53.3.1 Linguistic Pluralism
The American Library Association opposes all language laws, legislation, and regulations which restrict the rights of citizens who speak and read languages other than English, and those language laws, legislation, and regulations which abridge pluralism and diversity in library collections and services. The Association works with state associations and other agencies in devising ways to counteract restrictions arising from existing language laws and regulations, and encourages and supports the provision of library resources and services in the languages in common use in each community in the United States.
53.4 Governmental Intimidation
The American Library Association opposes any use of government prerogatives which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of free expression. ALA encourages resistance to such abuse of government power, and supports those against whom such governmental power has been employed.
53.5 Shield Laws
The American Library Association supports the enactment by Congress of a broad and effective federal shield law. The Association exhorts its chapters to work vigorously for the enactment of broad and effective shield laws in every state.
53.6 Loyalty Oaths
The American Library Association protests conditions of employment predicated on inquiries into library employees' thoughts, reading matter, associates, or memberships in organizations. The Association also protests compulsory affirmations of allegiance as a condition of employment in libraries and calls on libraries not to impose loyalty tests or oaths as conditions of employment.
53.7 Destruction of Libraries
The American Library Association deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property, and the disruption of the educational process by that act, whether it be done by individuals or groups of individuals and whether it be in the name of honest dissent, the desire to control or limit thought or ideas, or for any other purpose.
53.8 Libraries: An American Value
Libraries in America are cornerstones of the communities they serve. Free access to the books, ideas, resources and information in America's libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment, and self-government.
Libraries are a legacy to each generation, offering the heritage of the past and the promise of the future. To ensure that libraries flourish and have the freedom to promote and protect the public good in the 21st century, we believe certain principles must be guaranteed.
To that end, we affirm this contract with the people we serve:
We defend the constitutional rights of all individuals, including children and teenagers, to use the library's resources and services;
We value our nations diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve;
We affirm the responsibility and the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children's use of the library and its resources and services;
We connect people and ideas by helping each person select and effectively use the library's resources;
We protect each individual's privacy and confidentiality in the use of library resources and services;
We protect the rights of individuals to express their opinions about library resources and services;
We celebrate and preserve our democratic society by making available the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions and ideas, so that all individuals have the opportunity to become lifelong learners-informed, literate, educated, and culturally enriched.
Change is constant; but these principles transcend change and endure in a dynamic, technological, social and political environment.
By embracing these principles, libraries in the United States can contribute to a future that values and protects freedom of speech, in a world that celebrates both our similarities and our differences, respects individuals and their beliefs, and holds all persons truly equal and free.
53.9 Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement
The American Library Association endorses Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement, a statement of the Association of American Publishers, Inc.
(See Current Reference File: Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement, 2000-2001 CD#19.3)