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Intellectual Freedom

A guide to how various types of libraries uphold principles of intellectual freedom.

Intellectual Freedom: Intellectual freedom gives people the right to think for themselves. It respects individual dignity and self-rule. This freedom allows people to form their own ideas and opinions by questioning the world around them. Every person has the right to access information from all points of view, in all formats, and without restriction. Privacy is required for true intellectual freedom.

Censorship: Limiting or removing access to words, images, or ideas. The decision to restrict or deny access is made by a governing authority. This could be a person, group, or organization/business. Censorship by the government is illegal.

Selection/Deselection: Process & policies related to purchasing (“collection development”)  or removing (“weeding”) library materials.

Book Challenge:  An attempt to have a library resource removed, or access to it restricted, based on the objections of a person or group.

Reconsideration Request: A formal, written request that the library remove or restrict access to particular resources or programs, submitted on a form and invoking a formal, standardized review process by the library and/ or its governing body.

Book Ban: The removal of materials from a library based on the objections of a person or group.


The above definitions have been adapted from the following resources: 

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee. (2023). Intellectual freedom censorship q+a. American Library Association 

United for Libraries. (2022). Tools for trustees: Terms and definitions related to intellectual freedom and censorship. American Library Association