Guidance for Holding a Public Meeting

Intellectual Freedom Manual, 10th Edition

If a challenge is addressed in a public meeting, such as a public hearing or as part of an appeal process, the following tips may be helpful.



  • Brief members of the governing body on:
    • Policies and procedures, specifically open-meeting laws and the library's collection development and resource reconsideration policy
    • The concerns expressed, how the library or educational institution has responded to the challenge, and the decisions made.
  • Have everyone review the challenged resource in its entirety.

  • Determine the length of the meeting and reserve a definite time for public comment.

  • Announce the meeting well in advance. It is important that the media and the public understand that the decisions made are not arbitrary, but are based on a great deal of work, thought, and consultation.

  • Seek support from ally groups and individuals who can speak in support of the freedom to access resources, or who can send written expressions of support (e.g., parents, educators, students, area librarians from other library types, local colleges and universities, ministers, attorneys, people from the media, state library associations, educational groups).



  • Distribute the Library Bill of Rights, your library’s collection development and resource reconsideration policy, and open-meeting procedures.

  • Ask people who wish to speak to sign in.

  • Have the chair of the governing body preside. At the beginning of the hearing, the chair should explain the process the governing body will follow and when it will issue its decision.

  • Have individuals speak in the order they signed in, and appoint a timekeeper to limit each speaker to a specific amount of time. If participants are allowed to speak a second time, they should do so only after everyone who has registered has had an opportunity to speak.


Garnar, Martin, and Trina Magi. Intellectual Freedom Manual. Tenth Edition. Chicago: ALA Editions. 2021
Purchase the Intellectual Freedom Manual, Tenth Edition at the ALA store.

Updated 2021