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Intellectual Freedom

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

This document provides an overview of resources and action items related to preserving intellectual freedom in public libraries and schools. It includes guiding documents from the American Library Association and Maryland Library Association related to intellectual freedom, the rights of minors to access library services and resources, the importance of diverse collections in support of free inquiry, and appropriate responses to challenges to library materials. It also contains suggested action items for educators and community members. 

UMD Libraries Intellectual Freedom Statement

What is Intellectual Freedom?

The American Library Association (ALA) describes intellectual freedom as follows: "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. Protection of this freedom assures every person’s right to form their own ideas and opinions."

Visit the ALA Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q+A for more definitions related to intellectual freedom, as well as additional information on the role of libraries in protecting intellectual freedom. 

Did You Know...

  • 2022 saw the highest number of demands to censor library materials since ALA began compiling this data more than 20 years ago, with the number of attempted bans doubling since 2021
  • Per PEN America's American Index of School Book Bans, July 2021 - June 30, 2022, 41% of banned books featured LGBTQ+ themes, protagonists, or prominent secondary characters, and 40% featured protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color
  • According to a national 2022 ALA poll, 71% of voters oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public library, and majority of voters and parents across the political spectrum felt that their libraries do a good job of offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints

Taken together, the data reveal that current book challenges disproportionately target stories about LGBTQ+ persons and people of color. The rapid increase in book challenges is alarming, but the data prove that there is strong bi-partisan support for libraries, and strong opposition to attempts to censor library materials. Together, we can support intellectual freedom and ensure that all readers see themselves in the library.