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Intellectual Freedom

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

The American Library Association (ALA) is the largest professional library association in the world. This body provides professional development opportunities for library workers, advocates for libraries at the federal level,  accredits master’s programs in library and information studies (the terminal degree for librarians), and sets guidelines and standards for the profession.

Library Bill of Rights

One of ALA’s foundational documents is the Library Bill of Rights ( This document identifies seven guiding principles for library collections and services [bolded emphasis is my own]:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. 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.
  7. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights

Library workers have a professional and ethical obligation to uphold the principles outlined in the Library Bill of Rights. ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee has published multiple interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights to address specific challenges to its tenets, including: