The First Amendment and Library Services eCourse

Monday, 8/2/2021 - Sunday, 8/29/2021

Librarians and library staff are aware that the free and equitable provision of information is an important part of the library's mission. The First Amendment protects the right to speak, publish, read, and view materials in the library, but courts have recognized that libraries also must have reasonable rules in place for patron use of the library, consistent with the library's mission to provide access to library materials and services to the entire library community.

This course, brought to you in collaboration with the Office for Intellectual Freedom, will introduce you to the legal principles behind the First Amendment, their practical implications in daily life, and how those principles affect library work. You will learn basic legal concepts, your rights as library employees, the rights of library patrons, and what the First Amendment does and does not obligate the library to provide.

While this course will be covering basic legal concepts, the content of this course is not legal advice and should not be used in place of legal representation.

Learning Outcomes

After participating in this course, you will understand:

  • Basic legal concepts related to the First Amendment          
  • The legal foundation of patrons’ rights to access the library and resources within it
  • The library’s role in providing patron access to meeting rooms, display cases, and social media within library spaces
  • The difference between speech that is protected by the First Amendment and that which is not

Who Should Attend

Library staff interested in learning how the First Amendment affects libraries will find this course relevant.


Theresa Chmara is an attorney in Washington, DC. She also is the General Counsel of the Freedom to Read Foundation. She is the author of Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and their Lawyers (ALA 2009). She has been a First Amendment lawyer for over twenty-five years and is a frequent speaker on intellectual freedom issues in libraries. She is a contributing author for the Intellectual Freedom Manual published by the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

This course is offered in collaboration with ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which is charged with implementing the intellectual freedom policies of the American Library Association through educating librarians and the public about the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association's basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. In order to meet its educational goals, the Office undertakes information, support, and coordination activities.



  • $209.00 for nonmembers
  • $188.10 for ALA Members

How to Register

  • Online
  • By Email:
  • By Mail: American Library Association, ATTN: MACS/Online CE Registration, 225 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601

Tech Requirements

Participants will need regular access to a computer with an internet connection for online message boards participation, viewing online video, listening to streaming audio (mp3 files), and downloading and viewing PDFs and PowerPoint files. This course is fully compatible with Windows and MacOs.


Questions about your registration should be directed to

If you have any other questions about this event, please contact us at

At Your Service

Accommodations are offered based on user needs. For transcription or other accessibility requests, please contact us at