An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
A democracy presupposes an informed citizenry.The First
Amendment mandates the right of all persons to free expression,
and the corollary right to receive the constitutionally
protected expression of others. The publicly supported
library provides free and equal access to information
for all people of the community the library serves. While
the roles, goals and objective of publicly supported
libraries may differ, they share this common mission.
The library's essential mission must remain the first
consideration for librarians and governing bodies faced
with economic pressures and competition for funding.
In support of this mission, the American Library Association
has enumerated certain principles of library services
in the Library Bill of Rights.
Principles Governing Fines, Fees, and User Charges
Article I of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Books and other library resources should
be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment
all people of the community the library serves.
Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states:
A person's right to use a library should
not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background,
The American Library Association opposes the charging
of user fees for the provision of information by all
libraries and information services that receive their
major support from public funds. All information resources
that are provided directly or indirectly by the library,
regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery,
should be readily, equally and equitably accessible to
all library users.
Libraries that adhere to these principles systematically
monitor their programs of service for potential barriers
to access and strive to eliminate such barriers when
they occur. All library policies and procedures, particularly
those involving fines, fees or other user charges, should
care, so as not to infringe on or interfere with the
provision or delivery of information and resources for
all users. Services should be re-evaluated on a regular
basis to ensure that the library's basic mission remains
Librarians and governing bodies should look for alternative
models and methods of library administration that minimize
distinctions among users based on their economic status
or financial condition. They should resist the temptation
to impose user fees to alleviate financial pressures,
at a long term cost to institutional integrity and public
confidence in libraries.
Library services that involve the provision
of information, regardless of format, technology, or
method of delivery,
should be made available to all library users on an equal
and equitable basis. Charging fees for the use of library
collections, services, programs, or facilities that were
for some members of the community because they reinforce
distinctions among users based on their ability and willingness
Principles Governing Conditions of Funding
Article II of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Materials should not be proscribed or
removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
Article III of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Libraries should challenge censorship
in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide
IV of the Library Bill of Rights states:
should cooperate with all persons and groups
concerned with resisting,, abridgment of free expression
and free access to ideas.
American Library Association opposes any legislative
or regulatory attempt to impose
content restrictions on library resources, or to limit
user access to information, as a condition of
funding for publicly supported libraries and information
The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression
is violated when the right to receive that expression
is subject to arbitrary restrictions based on content.
Librarians and governing bodies should examine carefully
any terms or conditions attached to library funding and
should oppose attempts to limit through such conditions
full and equal access to information because of content.
This principle applies equally to private gifts or bequests
and to public funds. In particular, librarians and governing
bodies have an obligation to reject such restrictions
when the effect of the restriction is to limit equal
and equitable access to information.
Librarians and governing bodies should cooperate with
all efforts to create a community consensus that public
supported libraries require funding unfettered by restrictions.
Such a consensus supports the library mission to provide
the free and unrestricted exchange of information and
ideas necessary to a functioning democracy.
The Association's historic position in this regard is
stated clearly in a number of Association policies: 50.4
Free Access to Information, 50.9 Financing of Libraries,
51.2 Equal Access to Library Service, 51.3 Intellectual
Freedom, 53 Intellectual Freedom Policies, 59.1 Policy
Objectives, and 60 Library Services for the Poor.
Adopted by the ALA Council, June 30, 1993.