|An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
Throughout history, the focus of censorship has fluctuated
from generation to generation. Books and other materials
have not been selected or have been removed from library
collections for many reasons, among which are prejudicial
language and ideas, political content, economic theory,
social philosophies, religious beliefs, sexual forms
of expression, and other topics of a potentially controversial
Some examples of censorship ma include removing or not
selecting materials because they are considered by some
as racist or sexist; not purchasing conservative religious
materials; not selecting materials about or by minorities
because it is thought these groups or interests are not
represented in a community; or not providing information
on, or materials from, non-mainstream political entities.
Librarians may seek to increase user awareness of materials
on various social concerns by many means, including,
but not limited to, issuing bibliographies and presenting
exhibits and programs.
Librarians have a professional responsibility
to be inclusive, not exclusive, in collection development
in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all
materials legally obtainable should be assured to the
user, and policies should not unjustly exclude materials
even if they are offensive to the librarian or the user.
Collection development should reflect the philosophy
inherent in Article II of the Library Bill of Rights: “Libraries
should provide materials and be proscribed or removed
because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” A
balanced collection reflects a diversity of materials,
not an equality of numbers. Collection development and
the selection of materials should be done according to
professional standards and established selection and
There are many complex facets to an issue,
and variation of context in which issues may be expressed,
or interpreted. Librarians have a professional responsibility
to be fair, just, and equitable and to give all library
users equal protection in guarding against violation
of the library patron’s right to read, view or
listen to materials and resources protected by the First
Amendment, no matter what the viewpoint of the author,
creator, or selector. Librarians have an obligation to
protect library collections from removal of materials
based on personal bias or prejudice, and to select and
support the access to materials on all subjects that
meet, as closely as possible, the needs and interests
of all persons in the community which the library serves.
This includes materials that reflect political, economic,
religious, social, minority, and sexual issues.
Intellectual freedom, the essence of equitable library
services, provides for free access to all expressions
of ideas through which any and all sides of a question,
cause, or movement may be explored. Toleration is meaningless
without tolerance for what some may consider detestable.
Librarians cannot justly permit their own preferences
to limit their degree of tolerance in collection development,
because freedom is indivisible.
Adopted 7/14/82; amended 1/10/90, by the ALA Council.