Revised Library Bill of Rights interpretations adopted at Seattle Midwinter Meeting

For Immediate Release
Tue, 02/12/2019


Eleanor Diaz

Program Officer

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

ALA Council adopted revisions to three Library Bill of Rights interpretations proposed by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) at the Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. On January 29, Council approved the proposed changes to “Challenged Resources,” “Prisoners’ Right to Read” and “Meeting Rooms.”

“I want to acknowledge and thank the IFC members, appointed liaisons and volunteers for their hard work on revising these three interpretations,” said IFC Chair Julia Warga. “I would also like to thank the library community for their thoughtful feedback during our writing process. Council's votes to approve these interpretations reinforces the IFC's decision to revise and update these documents.”

Challenged Resources” was adopted by ALA Council in 1971 and amended in 1981, 1990, 2009 and 2014. The revised interpretation incorporates a footnote on the distinction between legal and extralegal actions within the text, and includes a statement on library services for students and minors.

Prisoners’ Right to Read” — adopted in 2010 and amended in 2014 — has an expanded citation section and a statement on library services provided to people who are incarcerated or detained, regardless of citizenship status or conviction status. The word “prisoners” throughout the text was changed to “people who are incarcerated or detained,” “people who are incarcerated” and “incarcerated people.”

Meeting Rooms” was revised to address concerns from the library community. In August, ALA Council voted to rescind the meeting rooms interpretation adopted at the Annual Conference in New Orleans, restoring the 1991 version. The IFC formed a working group that brought multiple voices and a broad range of perspectives to the table from throughout the association to revise the document. The introduction to the interpretation references the “Resolution on Libraries as Responsible Spaces.”

“The presence and activities of some groups in public spaces, while constitutionally protected, can cause fear and discomfort in some library users and staff,” states the interpretation. “Libraries should adopt and enforce user behavior policies that protect library users and staff from harassment while maintaining their historic support for the freedom of speech.”

The IFC is also creating a meeting rooms Q&A, with questions ranging from policy and public forum, to commercial sales and fees.

At the Midwinter Meeting, ALA Council also adopted a provision to the Library Bill of Rights that recognizes and defends library users’ privacy.

The three interpretation revisions and privacy article will be included in the 10th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, edited by Martin Garnar and Trina Magi.


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.