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The Library Bill of Rights: How It Applies to Different Library Resources and Services



Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association: What You Need to Know




Libraries are more than just places where you can borrow books, access computers, or attend programs. They are also institutions that uphold the values of democracy, diversity, and intellectual freedom. Libraries serve as gateways to information, knowledge, and culture for everyone in their communities.




library bill of rights of the american library association



But how do libraries ensure that they fulfill their roles as guardians of free expression, access, and diversity? One way is by following a set of principles called the library bill of rights. The library bill of rights is a document that outlines the basic rights and responsibilities of libraries and library users in relation to intellectual freedom.


In this article, you will learn more about what the library bill of rights is, how it came into being, what it means for libraries and library users, how it is interpreted and applied in different situations, and what challenges it may face in the future. By reading this article, you will gain a better understanding of why the library bill of rights is important for libraries and society.


The History and Development of the Library Bill of Rights




The library bill of rights was adopted by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1939, in response to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe and the threat of censorship and propaganda in the United States. The ALA recognized the need for a statement that would affirm the role of libraries as defenders of intellectual freedom and democracy.


The original library bill of rights consisted of five articles that declared that libraries should provide access to all types of information and viewpoints, resist censorship, cooperate with other organizations that promote intellectual freedom, and serve all people regardless of their background or views. The library bill of rights was revised and expanded several times over the years, reflecting the changing social and political contexts and challenges that libraries faced.


The most significant revision occurred in 1948, when the library bill of rights was aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in the same year. The library bill of rights added a sixth article that stated that libraries should make their facilities available to the public on an equitable basis, regardless of their beliefs or affiliations. The library bill of rights also adopted a preamble that emphasized the importance of intellectual freedom for human dignity and social progress.


The library bill of rights has been amended and reaffirmed several times since then, most recently in 2019. The current version of the library bill of rights consists of six articles and a preamble that express the core values and principles of libraries and librarianship. The library bill of rights also serves as the basis for various interpretations and applications that address specific issues and situations related to intellectual freedom in libraries.


The Six Articles of the Library Bill of Rights




The six articles of the library bill of rights are as follows:


Article 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.




This article affirms that libraries should provide access to a wide range of materials and resources that reflect the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and expressions in society. Libraries should not exclude or restrict materials based on their source, authorship, or content. Libraries should respect the right of individuals to seek and receive information from all points of view without interference or limitation.


Article 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.




This article asserts that libraries should provide materials and information that cover various aspects and opinions on current and historical issues. Libraries should not censor or remove materials based on political, religious, or ideological objections. Libraries should support the right of individuals to form their own opinions and judgments based on critical evaluation and analysis of information.


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




This article declares that libraries should oppose any attempts to restrict or suppress access to information and expression. Libraries should resist any pressures or threats from individuals, groups, or authorities that seek to limit or control what people can read, view, or hear in libraries. Libraries should uphold the right of individuals to explore and express ideas without fear or intimidation.


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




This article encourages libraries to collaborate with other organizations and individuals who share the same commitment to intellectual freedom. Libraries should join forces with other advocates and allies who work to protect and promote free expression and access to ideas in society. Libraries should participate in public education and awareness campaigns that highlight the value and importance of intellectual freedom.


Article V: A persons right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.




This article ensures that libraries do not discriminate against any person or group based on their identity, characteristics, or beliefs. Libraries should provide equal access and opportunity for all people to use library resources and services without bias or prejudice. Libraries should foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for all library users.


Article 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.




This article states that libraries should make their exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public on fair and consistent terms, regardless of the views or affiliations of those who request them. Libraries should not deny or grant access to these facilities based on agreement or disagreement with the content or purpose the right of individuals and groups to express their views and opinions in these facilities without interference or censorship.


The Interpretations and Applications of the Library Bill of Rights




The library bill of rights is not a static or rigid document. It is a living and evolving statement that adapts to the changing needs and challenges of libraries and society. The library bill of rights is also not a comprehensive or exhaustive document. It does not cover every possible issue or situation that may arise in relation to intellectual freedom in libraries.


Therefore, the ALA has developed and adopted various interpretations and applications of the library bill of rights that provide more specific guidance and recommendations for libraries and librarians on how to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom in different contexts and scenarios. These interpretations and applications are based on the professional judgment and experience of librarians, as well as on relevant laws, policies, and standards.


Some of the most important and widely used interpretations and applications of the library bill of rights are:


Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries




This interpretation applies the library bill of rights to academic libraries, which serve the teaching, research, and service missions of higher education institutions. It affirms that academic libraries have a responsibility to support academic freedom, scholarly communication, and intellectual inquiry in their communities. It also outlines the rights and responsibilities of academic librarians, faculty, students, administrators, and governing boards in relation to intellectual freedom in academic libraries.


Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors




This interpretation applies the library bill of rights to minors, who are defined as persons under the age of 18 or the age of majority in their state. It asserts that minors have the same rights and responsibilities as adults in accessing library resources and services. It also acknowledges that parents or guardians have the right and responsibility to guide their children's reading and information-seeking activities. It advises libraries to respect the choices and privacy of minors and their parents or guardians, while providing a wide range of materials and services that meet their needs and interests.


Privacy and Confidentiality




This interpretation applies the library bill of rights to privacy and confidentiality, which are essential for intellectual freedom and democracy. It states that libraries have a duty to protect the privacy and confidentiality of library users and their information-seeking activities. It also warns that libraries may face legal or ethical challenges or pressures from individuals, groups, or authorities that seek to access or disclose personal or sensitive information about library users. It recommends libraries to adopt and implement policies and practices that safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of library users.


Diversity in Collection Development




This interpretation applies the library bill of rights to diversity in collection development, which is vital for intellectual freedom and diversity. It emphasizes that libraries should select and maintain collections that represent a variety of viewpoints, cultures, experiences, and expressions in society. It also cautions that libraries may encounter difficulties or controversies in acquiring or retaining diverse materials due to budgetary constraints, availability issues, or external pressures. It advises libraries to follow professional standards and criteria in selecting and evaluating materials, while respecting the rights and preferences of library users.


Challenged Resources




and follow policies and procedures that address challenges or complaints in a fair and consistent way.


The Future of the Library Bill of Rights




The library bill of rights is not a final or fixed document. It is a dynamic and responsive statement that reflects the changing needs and challenges of libraries and society. The library bill of rights is also not a perfect or flawless document. It is a human and fallible statement that may have gaps or limitations in addressing every issue or situation that may arise in relation to intellectual freedom in libraries.


Therefore, the ALA and the library community are constantly reviewing and revising the library bill of rights to ensure that it remains relevant and effective for libraries and library users in the present and future. The ALA and the library community are also constantly exploring and developing new interpretations and applications of the library bill of rights that provide more specific guidance and recommendations for libraries and librarians on how to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom in different contexts and scenarios.


Some of the emerging issues and trends that may affect the library bill of rights in the future are:



  • The impact of technology and digital media on information creation, access, and use.



  • The challenges of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news on information quality, credibility, and literacy.



  • The implications of social media and online platforms on information privacy, security, and ethics.



  • The effects of globalization and migration on information diversity, inclusion, and equity.



  • The role of libraries in supporting social justice, human rights, and democracy.



These issues and trends may pose new opportunities or threats for intellectual freedom in libraries. They may also require new skills or competencies for librarians to effectively address them. The library bill of rights will continue to serve as a framework and a guide for libraries and librarians to navigate these issues and trends in a responsible and professional manner.


Conclusion




The library bill of rights is a document that outlines the basic rights and responsibilities of libraries and library users in relation to intellectual freedom. The library bill of rights was adopted by the American Library Association in 1939, in response to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe and the threat of censorship and propaganda in the United States. The library bill of rights has been revised and expanded several times over the years, reflecting the changing social and political contexts and challenges that libraries faced.


and society. The library bill of rights is also not a comprehensive or exhaustive document. It does not cover every possible issue or situation that may arise in relation to intellectual freedom in libraries.


The library bill of rights is a document that is important for libraries and society. It affirms the role of libraries as defenders of intellectual freedom and democracy. It supports the right of individuals to seek and receive information from all points of view without interference or limitation. It protects libraries from external pressures and threats to free expression and access to ideas. It fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment for all library users. It encourages libraries to collaborate with other advocates of intellectual freedom. It provides guidance and recommendations for libraries and librarians on how to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom in different contexts and scenarios.


If you are interested in learning more about the library bill of rights, you can visit the following websites:









You can also read the following books:



  • Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for Young Adult & School Librarians by Kristin Fletcher-Spear and Kelly Tyler (2014)



  • Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your Public Library: Scenarios from the Front Lines by June Pinnell-Stephens (2012)



  • Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974 by Toni Samek (2001)



Or you can watch the following videos:









We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what the library bill of rights is and why it is important for libraries and society. We also hope that this article has inspired you to explore and appreciate the value and importance of intellectual freedom in your own life and community.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about the library bill of rights:



  • What is the difference between intellectual freedom and censorship?



Intellectual freedom is the right of individuals to seek and receive information from all points of view without interference or limitation. Censorship is the suppression or restriction of access to information or expression based on political, religious, or ideological objections.


  • Who can challenge or complain about library resources or services?



Anyone who uses or is affected by library resources or services can challenge or complain about them. However, challenges or complaints should be based on personal concerns or preferences, not on attempts to impose one's views or values on others.


  • How do libraries handle challenges or complaints about library resources or services?



Libraries should handle challenges or complaints in a respectful and transparent manner, while upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and due process. Libraries should establish and follow policies and procedures that address challenges or complaints in a fair and consistent way.


  • What are some examples of challenged resources or services in libraries?



Some examples of challenged resources or services in libraries are books, movies, magazines, websites, databases, programs, exhibits, or meeting rooms that contain or deal with topics such as sexuality, religion, politics, race, gender, violence, or drugs.


  • What are some of the benefits of intellectual freedom for libraries and society?



Some of the benefits of intellectual freedom for libraries and society are:


  • It promotes intellectual curiosity and creativity.



  • It supports critical thinking and informed citizenship.



  • It fosters diversity and inclusion.



  • It protects human dignity and social progress.



  • It strengthens democracy and civil society.



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