ALA Council adopts interpretations on politics and equity, diversity, inclusion

For Immediate Release
Tue, 07/18/2017


Eleanor Diaz

Program Officer

Office for Intellectual Freedom

American Library Association

CHICAGO — At the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago, ALA Council adopted two interpretations authored by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) that address recent dialogues on diversity and politics.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” explains how each of the six articles in the Library Bill of Rights — ALA’s core document on fundamental library values — embraces equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Using EDI definitions crafted by the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the interpretation stresses the importance of “socially excluded, marginalized, and underrepresented people” seeing themselves reflected in library programs, resources and staff.

“The First Amendment is all about equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Pam Klipsch, immediate past IFC chair. “Libraries are First Amendment institutions for everyone in their communities.”

The interpretation follows ALA Council’s adoption of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as a fourth strategic direction during the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Politics in American Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” encourages librarians to collect, maintain and provide access to a variety of political viewpoints. It also addresses meeting spaces, exhibits, distribution of literature and workplace speech. Using the First Amendment as its foundation, “Politics in American Libraries” highlights libraries’ roles in encouraging political discussions.

“Providing free, unfettered access to those ideas and opinions is an essential characteristic of American libraries,” the interpretation states. “Therefore, libraries should encourage political discourse as part of civic engagement in forums designated for that purpose. Libraries should not ignore or avoid political discourse for fear of causing offense or provoking controversy.”

The Association of College & Research Libraries Professional Values Committee endorsed "Politics in American Libraries."

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Director James LaRue commented on the importance of both interpretations.

“In 2015, nine of the ten most challenged titles in America were by or about diverse populations. In the past year, several libraries and campuses have booked speakers who were later disinvited, or sparked violent protests,” said LaRue. “These interpretations re-examine and contextualize current events in light of our enduring values."

All interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights can be found on the ALA website.


About ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee

The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, a committee of Council, recommends policies, practices and procedures to safeguard the rights of patrons, libraries and librarians, in accordance with the First Amendment and the Library Bill of Rights.

About ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights. Established in 1967, the office provides library resources on a range of intellectual freedom subjects. OIF supports the work of the Intellectual Freedom Committee.