An updated history of ALA policy on intellectual freedom

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/14/2021


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing & Media

American Library Association


CHICAGO — Collecting several key documents, “A History of ALA Policy on Intellectual Freedom” is a supplement to the tenth edition of “Intellectual Freedom Manual,“ published by ALA Editions in collaboration with ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). Providing valuable context, it traces a history of ALA's commitment to fighting censorship. Beginning with an introductory essay that chronicles ALA policy making on intellectual freedom, this important resource includes sections discussing such foundational issues as:

  • library advocacy on social and political issues, from post-World War I disarmament, to Vietnam-era protests, to the call to revisit the field’s rhetoric concerning neutrality;
  • the evolution of the Library Bill of Rights, such as the 1978 revision that eliminated its use of sex-linked pronouns and ALA Council actions rescinding the 2018 interpretation on meeting rooms;
  • protecting the freedom to read;
  • diverse collections and equity, diversity, and inclusion, new to this edition;
  • ALA’s complicated history on race, including a 1936 statement opposing discrimination, inaction amidst litigation to desegregate libraries in the 1950s and 1960s, and protests over Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law;
  • ALA's Code of Ethics;
  • how to respond to challenges and concerns about library resources;
  • internet filtering, minors and online activity, and education and information literacy;
  • programs and displays;
  • policy on governmental intimidation; 
  • copyright; and
  • privacy and confidentiality, including the retention of library usage records.

Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use.

Martin Garnar (editor) is the director of the Amherst College Library. He has taught professional ethics, library instruction, and the foundations of library and information science for the University of Denver’s LIS program. He has served as chair of the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Committee on Professional Ethics and as president of the Freedom to Read Foundation. Trina Magi (Assistant Editor) is a library professor and reference and instruction librarian at the University of Vermont. She has chaired state and regional intellectual freedom committees, served on the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and published numerous articles on privacy. She has won several awards for her intellectual freedom advocacy.

Established in 1967, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning 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. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.

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