Intellectual Freedom

The libraries of America are and must ever remain the home of free, inquiring minds. To them our citizens…must be able to turn with clear confidence that there they can freely seek the whole truth, unwarped by fashion and uncompromised by expediency.  —Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

According to the American Library Association (ALA) Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A, “intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”

What is censorship?  "Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, ‘Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!’ ” 

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom — — has been a leader, educator, and a supporter of local efforts to ensure that the library remains “…the home of free, inquiring minds.”

The Idaho Library Association maintains an Intellectual Freedom Committee page — — where you can find more information and Idaho contacts.

Library Bill of Rights

 The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

 I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

Although the Articles of the Library Bill of Rights are unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries, questions do arise concerning application of these principles to specific library practices.  See the documents designated by the Intellectual Freedom Committee as Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights.

Library Material Challenges

Boards should have in place a collection development policy that includes a procedure for working with community members who challenge library materials.  This is usually included as the last section of the library's Collection Development Policy.  This Challenged Materials section should include a Request for Reconsideration of Materials form with instructions on how to submit the form and an explanation of how the reconsideration process works.

Privacy of Patron Information

Related to Intellectual Freedom and of concern to public library boards of trustees is the privacy of patron information required by Idaho Code. According to IC § 74-108(3):  The following records are exempt from disclosure: … (3) The records of a library which, when examined alone, or when examined with other public records, would reveal the identity of the library patron checking out, requesting, or using an item from a library.

Library boards and directors should work with their legal counsel to develop a policy concerning patron privacy that reflects Idaho Code’s requirements.  See Policy Development

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Resources & Examples