For immediate release | February 7, 2019

New Library Bill of Rights Provision Recognizes and Defends Library Users’ Privacy

The Library Bill of Rights — first adopted in 1939 and last amended in 1980 — has been updated to include an article focused on the concept of ensuring privacy and confidentiality for library users.

The new article of the Library Bill of Rights, Article VII, states:

"All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information."

“Libraries across the nation now have the support needed to protect and fight for the privacy rights of their patrons,” said Erin Berman, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee's Privacy Subcommittee and co-leader of the working group that drafted the new article. “They may use the privacy article to update policies and practices, bringing the new article to governing bodies, vendors, funders and their patrons.”

Helen Adams, an IFC member and co-leader of the working group, commended the working group and those who contributed to the privacy article. She also noted the article’s significance to school libraries.

“With the addition of Article VII, students in K-12 public schools are promised the right of privacy and confidentiality in their library use,” said Adams. “Adding the core values of privacy and confidentiality to one of the profession’s foundational documents places school librarians in a stronger position from which to advocate for and educate about library privacy for minors.”

The revision process began with a joint working group of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) and Privacy Subcommittee. The working group envisioned the article as an opportunity for libraries to reaffirm their commitment to patron privacy for library users of all ages. ALA Council adopted the article at the Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.

During the revision process, the working group received valuable feedback from the library community. The working group plans to incorporate these comments into its next project: revising “Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.” All updated intellectual freedom documents will be included in the 10th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, scheduled to be published by ALA Editions in 2020.


Deborah Caldwell-Stone

Interim Director

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom