New intellectual freedom resources for libraries on social media and controversial programs

For Immediate Release
Thu, 07/05/2018


Eleanor Diaz

Program Officer

Office for Intellectual Freedom

In response to program cancellations and rising concerns about social media access and privacy, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee published new guidelines and a Q&A for library workers.

Social Media Guidelines for Public and Academic Libraries” provides a policy framework for public and academic libraries that use social media. Topics range from staff responsibilities and acceptable behavior, to privacy and reconsideration forms.

Using recent court cases, the resource explicates the definition of “public forum” as it relates to social media platforms, as well as outlines what may be in a library’s social media policy. The guidelines include suggestions for creating social media policies but is not intended as a comprehensive list of requirements or legal advice.

“There is a great need right now for guidance in balancing a library's desire to interact with their community on social media — to 'meet them where they are' — with the need to create a space where every voice can be heard,” said M. Teresa Doherty, outgoing IFC member and co-leader of the working group that created the document. “We believe that this document will help libraries create a policy to guide their social media strategy and engage with their community.”

The IFC also published “Responding to and Preparing for Controversial Programs and Speakers Q&A,” which offers strategies and resources for libraries to address community concerns and prepare for potentially controversial library-initiated events.

The Q&A is divided into four sections: representation of all views at library programs, disinvited speakers and authors, dealing with protests and speakers, and security for programs and events. It includes suggestions on how to “set the tone” during a controversial program and how to be transparent about policies and expectations. The Q&A also describes why libraries host a variety of programs:

“ ... Libraries should strive to provide a full range of viewpoints in their programming and experiences, serving the needs of all members of the community,” states the interpretation. “As with collection development, programs in libraries enhance the collection, support the institution's mission, and provide the community with access to diverse ideas and information.”

Intellectual freedom resources can be found at

About the 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 the 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