Support for Intellectual Freedom

Every library — academic, public, and school (public, private, charter, independent, and international) — should have a comprehensive written policy that guides the selection, deselection or weeding, and reconsideration of library resources. The most valuable selection policy is current; it is reviewed and revised on a regular basis; and it is familiar to all members of a library’s staff. The policy should be approved by the library’s governing board or other policy-making body and disseminated widely for understanding by all stakeholders.

Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries

Intellectual freedom is the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Intellectual freedom is one of the core values of the library profession; it promotes access to information and guides the defense against censorship.

The Freedom to Read Statement asserts, “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy.” In a democratic society, individuals must be sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions. Libraries provide their users with necessary information through a wide selection of materials from varying points of view. It is essential that library resources remain free to use for all, regardless of age. The Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations lay out rationales for these principles of intellectual freedom. Incorporating the tenets of intellectual freedom foundational documents (such as the First Amendment, the Library Bill of Rights, and the Freedom to Read Statement) into the selection policy provides support for intellectual freedom as a philosophy underlying the policy. Strong selection policies include a statement of support for intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom policy statements are often attached to selection policies.

Example: Public Library Support for Intellectual Freedom

The library provides an impartial environment in which individuals and their interests are brought together with the universe of ideas and information spanning the spectrum of knowledge and opinions. The library board affirms the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to View, and Freedom to Read policy statements in support of acquiring and managing collections.

Example: School Library Support for Intellectual Freedom

The school libraries of this district are guided by the principles set forth in the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretative statements, including “Access to Resources and Services in the School Library Program” and The Students’ Right to Read statement of the National Council of Teachers of English. See Appendix (in this policy) for the Library Bill of Rights, “Access to Resources and Services in the School Library Program,” and The Students’ Right to Read statement.

Example: Academic Library Support for Intellectual Freedom

This academic library adheres to the principles of intellectual freedom outlined in the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, the Association of American Colleges' and the American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and the Association of College & Research Libraries’ “Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” and “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education.”

Home | Introduction

Why Do I Need a Policy? | Politics and Timing of Policy Creation | Selection Policies for Non-Public Institutions

Basic Components of a Selection Policy

Library Mission | Support for Intellectual Freedom | Objectives | Responsibility for Selection | Selection Criteria | Acquisitions Procedures | Special Collections | Selecting Controversial Materials | Gifts and Donations | Collection Maintenance and Weeding | Policy Revision | Reconsideration

Reconsideration Procedure

Guiding Principles | Statement of Policy | Informal Complaints | Request for Formal Reconsideration | Sample Reconsideration Form | Sample Letter to Complainant | Reconsideration Committees


Intellectual Freedom Core Documents | Challenge Support and Reporting Censorship | Bibliography of Additional Selection and Reconsideration Policy Resources

Updated January 2018 by ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom