Using the Library
Brownell Library Policy|
I. Mission Statement
II. Library Use
III. Intellectual Freedom
V. Continuing Education
VI. Exhibit Policy
VIII. Library Bill of Rights
IX. The Freedom to Read Statement
Brownell Library is
a municipal library
that provides a current and diverse collection for all ages in a welcoming and
comfortable environment where people come first. The staff’s mission is to help
patrons utilize the library’s resources and to provide opportunities for
community enrichment and cultural awareness.
Brownell Library is supported by two 501(c)3 organizations which have their own
policies and mission statements: Friends of Brownell Library and The Brownell
Library Foundation Inc. Information on these organizations can be obtained at
the Circulation Desk or online at the library’s website.
both adults and children, has free access to all library information. It is
deemed the responsibility of parents and/or guardians to determine what their
children, and only their own children, may read. Parents are free to accompany
their own children to the library if they wish to monitor and/or restrict their
access to certain materials. The selection of materials will not be restricted
by the possibility that young people may obtain materials that their parents may
consider inappropriate. School groups are welcomed on a first-come, first-
served basis and are encouraged to notify the Library Director or Youth Services
Librarian in advance of arrival
Access will be denied only for due cause as determined by the Library
Director for abuse of privileges or infringement of stated behavioral guidelines
pursuant to posted policy. Patrons who do not follow the Behavior Guidelines of
Brownell Library and are warned three times by the staff may be asked to leave
the building. Individuals denied access have the right to appeal to the Library
Board of Trustees using the Denial of Access forms available at the Circulation
The Brownell Library serves residents of the Village of Essex Junction
and, in addition, serves other members of the larger community, either by
accepting validated Homecards from area public libraries or offering temporary
cards to those members of libraries that are not part of the Homecard program.
Procedures for becoming a patron at the Brownell Library are available in the
Procedures Manual at the Circulation Desk.
Borrowing privileges will be assured for patrons who respect library
property, including timely return of library materials and respecting the rights
of other patrons. Procedures for dealing with non-compliance are available in
the Procedures Manual at the Circulation Desk.
Borrowing privileges will be denied only for due cause, as determined by
the Library Director, for abuses of the privilege such as destruction of
property, negligence in returning library materials when due, or conduct which
interferes with the rights of others.
If materials are not returned, the library expects payment for the
purchase of the materials or a replacement copy deemed acceptable by the Library
Director or the Youth Services Librarian. The library will not accept payment
until a bill has been sent. No refunds will be given after the materials are
Returned items irreparably damaged will be paid for or replaced by the
borrower. The Library Director or Youth Services Librarian will be the final
arbiter of whether an item is irreparably damaged.
The Brownell Library may lend materials to other libraries in the state
or country for their members’ use without charge, subject to the rules and
regulations of the Brownell Library and in accordance with the American Library
Association Interlibrary Loan Code. Such libraries shall be held
responsible for the safe return of books lent by the Brownell Library.
All patrons of Brownell Library, regardless of age, have equal access to
information provided by computer and Internet access.
The Brownell Library’s policy on the use of computers and access to the
Internet is the same as for the borrowing of books: parents and guardians of
children are responsible for the appropriate use by children of the Library’s
resources, and the Library assumes no responsibility for supervising users who
The Library is not responsible for the quality or content of information
encountered on the Internet. The Library also assumes no responsibility for any
claims, liabilities, actions or damages to personal property arising from use of
any library-owned or leased electronic services, or resulting from the use of
data made available through electronic information services. Illegal acts
involving Library computing resources, for example, the viewing of child
pornography, may also be subject to prosecution by local, state or federal
Community Room shall be available to groups or individuals for participation in
activities of an educational, cultural, intellectual or charitable nature. This
room is available to the people of the community on an equitable basis,
regardless of beliefs or affiliations of the individuals or groups requesting
does not advocate or endorse the viewpoints expressed by community room users.
Procedures for use of the Kolvoord Community Room are in the Kolvoord Community
Room Reservation Book at the Circulation Desk.
regulations govern the use of the Community Room:
The room may be used by any member of the community as a meeting space
for any lawful activity appropriate to the size and nature of the room. The
first priority for its use is for any programs sponsored by the Brownell
Library; second priority is Local Government use. Permission to use the room
will then be granted on a first come, first served basis. Only not-for- profit
programs/presentations will be permitted. The Library Director reserves the
right to cancel any prescheduled use of the conference room due to unforeseen
Reservations may be made at the Circulation Desk on first-come, first-
served basis. Groups may only use the room once per month. Reservations shall be
allowed up to three months in advance.
All events must be free and open to the public; however, charges to cover
the cost of materials may be levied if the person or group has the permission of
the Library Director in advance.
Alcohol and tobacco are not permitted
All activities should be completed by 10:30 p.m.
Groups must set up in advance and take down the room, putting chairs and
equipment back where they found them
Individuals or groups shall be responsible for any damage occurring
during the use of the room.
A refundable deposit of $10.00 will be required for use of the room. The
key may be picked up on the day prior to the event, when the library is open.
Return key in book drop at south entrance after meeting. The patron should pick
up the deposit within two weeks. Any deposit not picked up within the two week
will be considered a donation to the library.
The Village of Essex Junction and the Brownell Library Board of Trustees
are not responsible for any accident, injury, or loss of individual property
while the room is in use.
A representative of any group, organization or any individual using the
room must sign an Acceptance of Responsibility Form at the time of any
The Staff Room is primarily for
staff use and may be used by others with the understanding that the staff will
need access throughout the work-day.
Kolvoord Community Room Basement
–While the Kolvoord Community Room Basement is currently used by the Friends of
Brownell Library for book sale activities, the library reserves the right to
reclaim the space for other library services and activities as the need arises.
Other space in the Library may be used for informal gatherings at the
staff’s discretion as long as the rights of other patrons are respected
Brownell Library endorses the American Library Association Library Bill of
Rights and Freedom to Read Statement (attached as Appendices)
The Library attempts to acquire
authoritative material that represents all points of view, and all sides of
controversial issues. The library does not promote particular beliefs or views,
but instead presents quality materials containing opposing views for examination
by the public. The presence of an item in the library does not indicate
endorsement of its content by the library.
The library will resist efforts
to force inclusion of proselytizing works representing political, economic,
moral, religious or other vested positions, when these materials do not conform
to the selection policies.
Material will not be excluded
from the collection for any particular view of the author, including, but not
limited to, the following: race, nationality, political or religious views,
gender, age, disability status, sexual orientation.
Works of fiction and non-fiction
should meet the literary standards of the period in which they were written.
The language and style should be suitable to the content and the author’s
purpose. Current novels which might be considered experimental, or which might
be considered sensational or objectionable by some members of the community,
should nevertheless be included in the collection if they meet the general
Textbooks are not generally
purchased unless suitable material is not readily available in other forms. The
Brownell Library collection should complement the resources already available to
students, and should enrich students’ resources for personal interest or
The library does not attempt to
develop a comprehensive research collection in any single field, with the one
exception of local history. Highly technical or specialized books are
inappropriate to the general needs of the library community. Brownell Library
selections in the areas of law, medicine and related subjects are restricted to
those of interest to the layman.
The authority for selection of
specific materials rests with the Library Director and the Youth Services
Librarian, within the framework of the above listed policies.
The Library Director and the
Youth Services Librarian use their professional judgment and expertise, enhanced
by an understanding of the needs of our community from preschool children
through adults, to make their selections. Reviews, standard lists of basic
works, and recommendations from professional journals are used for the selection
process. The public may also make recommendations, and these recommendations
will receive careful consideration in terms of overall objectives and the
existing book collections. At least one third of the annual materials budget
will be spent on youth materials.
In making the selection and/or
withdrawal of library materials, the librarian will consider the objectives
already mentioned, the overall needs of the community, and possible budgetary
restrictions. The librarian will borrow those materials which are beyond the
scope of our collection through the interlibrary loan system of Vermont.
All materials acquired for our
library collection should meet high standards of quality in content, expression,
and form. Factors in evaluation include factual accuracy and authoritativeness,
effective expression, significance of subject, sincerity and responsibility of
opinion, current usefulness, interest, permanent value and cost. Relevance to
the reading public and to the existing collection is very important.
Each work should be appraised as
a creative unified whole, with consideration for the purpose of the item. Works
which do not meet all of the standards, but which are of great interest, may be
purchased to meet a strong, though temporary need.
The form of materials, whether
books, periodicals, electronic resources, pamphlets, media, maps, pictures, or
some other medium, should be appropriate to the content use. In making this
determination the physical condition of the medium and the quality of its
technical production must be evaluated.
The criteria for selection apply
to the systematic removal or replacements of materials. Each withdrawal or
replacement should be judged individually with reference to standard library
tools, physical condition, catalogues and to the existing collection as a
whole. Special collections, such as Vermont authors, will be an exception. The
librarian will have discretion for discarding withdrawn materials.
A challenge is the questioning by
a patron or patrons as to the contents of the library’s collection.
At all stages of the challenge
process, the complaint should be treated in a respectful and non-confrontational
manner. Care should be taken to avoid escalation of the complaint and to
satisfy the complainant that the issue is being handled in a serious and timely
patrons will address their concern with the appropriate librarian who is
responsible for the area of the collection under consideration.
If unsatisfied the patron will complete the Library’s Materials
A meeting will then be scheduled with the Library Director, who will
respond either orally or in writing addressing why the decision regarding the
challenged material was made and the policies governing the ordering of
materials that were used in making the decision, including the following:
Selection Policies of the Library
American Library Association Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statements
documents, such as book reviews, newspaper articles, etc. which may have been
taken into consideration when first ordering or adding materials.
If the patron is not satisfied with the explanation, an ad hoc committee
of at least three Trustees will be chosen by lottery at the next regular meeting
of the Library Trustees and will consider the following:
for the patron’s complaint
addressed and considered in c above.
A copy of the materials in question, and copies of all policies and
supporting documents will be made available to the committee.
At the following regularly scheduled meeting of the Trustees, the
committee will make its report, and a vote will be taken to either approve the
committee’s findings or ask the committee to reconsider its decision. The
committee can only be asked to reconsider its decision based on a majority of
the Board present finding that the committee, in reaching its decision, did not
take into account all of the areas required to be considered and addressed in
sections c and d above.
If the patron is still dissatisfied, the patron may request a public
hearing to be held at the next regularly scheduled Trustees meeting. The
hearing will be conducted as follows:
copies of relevant policies and the complaint form will be made available by
prior request to all those attending.
length of time will be allotted for the public hearing.
space will be made available for all interested parties to attend the meeting.
complainant and interested parties will be allotted reasonable amounts of time
in which to speak. Interested parties will indicate their desire to speak at
the beginning of the meeting by signing a list.
will listen to all speakers and will issue its decision at the next regularly
decision has been announced, a written copy, including the reasons for the
decision, will be sent to the complainant.
Background, Philosophy, Rationale
The American Library Association, in its Code of Ethics,
states that libraries in the United States are in a position to
Influence or control the
selection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information. In a
political system grounded in an informed citizenry… (libraries are) committed to
intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information.
Libraries have a responsibility to foster the free flow of
ideas and information in their communities. The Brownell Library takes most
seriously this responsibility to ensure intellectual freedom, and recognizes the
critical need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of its users. This
means that the Brownell Library will not reveal, except upon receipt of a valid
and enforceable court order, subpoena or other binding legal demand (hereafter
“binding legal demand”) information about users – what they read from our
collections, what their areas of research might be, or what resources or
services they consult, use or access (hereafter “user information”). The
Brownell Library fully subscribes to the professional standard stated in the
Code of Ethics of the American Library Association:
We protect each library user’s
right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or
received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
Support for the protection of
library records is found in the ACT RELATING TO THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF LIBRARY
PATRON RECORDS (Sec. 1. 22 V.S.A.§§171-173), which provides that “a library’s
patron registration records and patron transaction records shall remain
confidential unless authorized by other provisions of law. The library’s
officers, employees, and volunteers shall not disclose the records, except in
specific listed situations which provide for information needed to conduct
library business, by written permission of the patron, to a custodial guardian
of a minor under 16 years or in response to a judicial order or warrant.“
In recognition of that public policy against open public
access to library patron records, and in light of what we consider our ethical
obligations as librarians, we shall not voluntarily, in the absence of a binding
legal demand or extraordinary and emergent health or safety threats, provide
third parties with access to user information.
Confidential library records have long been accessible to law
enforcement officials through orderly legal channels. However, passage by
Congress of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools
Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act,
Public Law 107-56) gives law enforcement officials freer access to library user
records, and increased ability to install devices on computer workstations to
monitor activity. Furthermore, it prohibits patron notification when certain
types of surveillance are underway. This legislation has caused libraries,
including the Brownell Library, to review their written policies and practices
regarding privacy of patron records, to rethink and codify record-keeping
practices, and to ensure that staff have coherent procedures to follow should
official requests for information identifying individuals come to the library.
Policy on Records Creation and Retention
The library does not collect or retain user information
beyond what is needed for essential library operations or to protect the library
collections (e.g., information necessary for contacting someone about materials
he or she currently has signed out or for which a bill might be outstanding).
Only staff and trained volunteers have access to personally identifiable
information stored in the library’s computer systems.
The library does not retain online records of Internet
transactions (Web site or chat room visits, or e-mail messages). Computer
workstations in the libraries are designed to protect user privacy – regularly
erasing search histories and user passwords on a cyclical basis as well as with
each system restart. Computer sign in sheets are shredded once they are used
for compiling library statistics.
Library administrators regularly review record-keeping
practices, and staff and volunteers are trained to understand library practices
regarding privacy and confidentiality.
2. Policy on Giving Information About Library
Without binding legal demand, and/or written permission of
the patron involved or formal request by custodial guardian of a patron under 16
years, Brownell Library and its staff will not provide user information
requested by a third party. “User Information” includes: name, mailing
address, telephone, e-mail address and Brownell Library barcode, and records of
resources and services used by an individual including, but not limited to:
library materials borrowed or consulted, reference requests or other requests
for information, database search records, interlibrary loan records, computer
workstations used, and the content of computer activity.
Procedures for Handling Requests for Library Records or Information About
The Brownell Library has established the following protocols
to deal with requests for library user information:
Staff procedures for handling requests from individuals who
are not law enforcement officers
When any individual including village or town staff members
presents herself to any staff member and requests information, the staff member
should inform the individual that according to BrownellLibrary policy, this information cannot be provided without a
binding legal demand or signed permission form on file with the library. If she
has further questions, she should be referred to the Director’s office.
Staff procedures for handling requests from law enforcement
officers or other parties in possession of purportedly binding legal demands
When an individual presents himself or herself to any staff
member or volunteer as a law enforcement officer or as someone bearing a binding
legal demand, and requests user information about library patrons, the staff
Ask to see
Ask the officer
if he or she has binding legal demand.
Director’s office and ask to speak with her. Advise the Director or senior
staff in charge if the individual has presented identification and a purportedly
binding legal demand to obtain user information.
individual requesting information to speak with the Director who will follow the
AFTER DIRECTING THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER TO THE DIRECTOR,
THE STAFF MEMBER MUST NOT INFORM ANYONE ABOUT THE REQUEST, UNLESS/UNTIL
AUTHORIZED TO DO SO BY THE DIRECTOR.
If the Director or Assistant Director is not available,
the staff member should contact one of the following persons and direct the
individual requesting the information to speak with him or her:
Village Manager –
Patrick Scheidel, (w)857-0111 (c)343-0850
Dave Barra (h)879-6889, (w) 879-7133
If the staff member cannot reach the Director or any other
individual, he/she should contact the American Library Association’s Office of
Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) at 1-800-545-2433 ext. 4223. Do not identify
yourself. Simply say, “We need legal advice.” An ALA lawyer will assist you.
After speaking with the lawyer, do not inform anyone else of the request unless
authorized to do so by the ALA lawyer.
Director or Staff in Charge procedure for handling requests from law
If the individual does not present photo
identification and/or a binding legal demand, the Director or Staff in charge
Review and make a
copy of whatever identification information the individual does present;
individual that the library cannot comply without appropriate identification and
documented legal authorization;
individual to the Village Manager and/or the Village Attorney.
If the individual does present appropriate photo
identification and a binding legal demand, the Director should:
Read the document and copy
identifying information presented by the individual
and contact village attorney
who will advise the Director about his/her legal responsibilities to respond to
the demand, and about procedures for responding to the person seeking the user
information. Counsel will also advise about any applicable restrictions
concerning communications with the user or others about the legal demand and the
library’s response to it.
American Library Association. Code of Ethics.
Chicago: ALA, June 28, 1995.
Accessed: November 3, 2003.
Privacy & Confidentiality in Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association and the Illinois
Library Association, July 2002.
http://www.ila.org/pdf/privacy.pdf Accessed: November 3, 2003.
Statutes Annotated Online. 22 V.S.A. §§ 171-173
1 V.S.A. §§ 317(c)
by the Brownell Library Trustees January 20, 2009
The library will accept donations
of materials with the understanding that the material will be added to the
collection only when needed: if the donated material is not added to the
collection, the library reserves for itself the right to dispose of such
material and may sell, give away or discard the item(s) at its discretion.
Because of its status as a municipal library, the Brownell Library is able to
accept monetary donations only if designated for a specific revenue fund.
Otherwise any monetary donations must be made to the Friends of Brownell Library
or the Brownell Library Foundation.
The Library cannot afford to
integrate into the collection any material it wouldn’t buy, if money were
available. The library will screen gifts of periodicals, pamphlets, newspapers,
books and audio-visual materials, etc., using the same selection policies as are
used for purchases.
The library will not accept as a
gift any item or object if the condition of acceptance requires permanent
exhibition of the item or object, or requires that the material be kept together
as a separate physical entity. The library is not a museum, and will rarely
accept objects. Except for purposes of temporary exhibition, the library will
not accept storage responsibilities for historical documents or objects owned or
controlled by groups or individuals.
Memorial materials are accepted by the library; however, persons wishing
to make such a gift should consult with the Library Director or Youth Librarian
before making a choice. Gift materials can be added to or weeded from the
collection in accordance with the selection policy.
It is the intent of the
Brownell Library to afford staff and library trustees the opportunity to attend
workshops and professional meetings pursuant to the Vermont Department of
Libraries Standard in order to keep up to date with current library trends.
Brownell Library and its Board of Trustees endorse the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights and offer its space and opportunities to exhibit to all groups and individuals regardless of beliefs or affiliations.
The display case and other exhibition areas will contain materials for the enjoyment and education of the community that are suitable for an all-ages audience. Exhibits, wall hangings, an artist’s work, or contents of the display case should be reviewed by the Library Director, or his/her designee, before any exhibition of materials or work may be placed in the Library. The Library Director shall determine whether or not to accept for display the work or materials presented pursuant to the Library Selection Policies. The Library Director reserves the right to limit the number of works on display as well as the number of times an artist or exhibitor may exhibit in order for others to have an opportunity to show their work.
The Library Director shall have the right to refer to the Library Board of Trustees decisions regarding exhibits that may have serious consequences for the Library. Individuals or groups denied the opportunity to exhibit their materials have the right to appeal to the Library Board of Trustees pursuant to the Library Intellectual Freedom policy.
The artist, or designated contact person in the case of group exhibits, is responsible for installing and removing the exhibit at an agreed-upon time when the Library is open and the exhibit area is available. Any exhibitors shall be responsible for leaving the room or display case in its original condition. The exhibitor is responsible for repairing any damage done.
Pricing or sale information for art pieces may be displayed on 2” x 3” card stock by individual pieces of art, or a separate price list may be displayed with corresponding numbered art work. Any artwork for sale must be a creation or print by the exhibiting artist. Any sales must be handled directly through the artists, with contact information left in the exhibit area. Works of art should remain on display throughout the exhibit period. If a piece is removed before the exhibit period ends, it should be replaced upon removal by another piece. The staff of the Brownell Library shall not act as agent for the purchase or sale of the artwork on exhibit.
The Library assumes no responsibility for the preservation, protection or possible damage or theft of any item displayed or exhibited. All items placed in the Library are done so at the owner's risk. The Brownell Library does not offer insurance coverage for the items exhibited in the Library.
This policy was approved by the Board of Trustees of the Brownell Library, September 21, 2004 and revised April 18, 2017.
The Library Trustees will
collaborate with the Village Manager on the hiring, evaluating and disciplining
of the Library Director with the understanding that the Village Manager has the
final decision- making authority and any disciplinary action will remain
Accepted by the Library Trustees Sept. 21, 2004
American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for
information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their
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.
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.
Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their
responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned
with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged
because of origin, age, background, or views.
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.
Adopted June 18, 1948.
Amended February 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980,
inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996,
by the ALA Council.
freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack.
Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are
working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in
schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable"
books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a
view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that
censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national
security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of
morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers
responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the
preservation of the freedom to read.
attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of
democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will
select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda
and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and
believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a
free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for
them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.
efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being
brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media,
and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow
of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary
curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome
scrutiny by government officials.
pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change.
And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social
tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain.
Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change
to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an
orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it
the less able to deal with controversy and difference.
as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to
read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or
manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The
written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from
which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the
extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of
knowledge and ideas into organized collections.
believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free
society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward
conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and
expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every
American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate,
in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and
librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to
read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of
freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free
people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights
and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.
therefore affirm these propositions:
It is in the public interest for publishers
and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and
expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered
dangerous by the majority.
Creative thought is
by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought
is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt
to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that
challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt
to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely
from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every
nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process.
Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can
the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to
know not only what we believe but why we believe it.
Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do
not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would
conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political,
moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be
published or circulated.
librarians serve the educational process by helping to make available knowledge
and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They
do not foster education by imposing as mentors the patterns of their own
thought. The people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range
of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or
government or church. It is wrong that what one can read should be confined to
what another thinks proper.
It is contrary to the public interest for
publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the
personal history or political affiliations of the author.
No art or literature
can flourish if it is to be measured by the political views or private lives of
its creators. No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of
writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.
There is no place in our society for efforts
to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter
deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to
achieve artistic expression.
To some, much of
modern expression is shocking. But is not much of life itself shocking? We cut
off literature at the source if we prevent writers from dealing with the stuff
of life. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare the young to meet
the diversity of experiences in life to which they will be exposed, as they have
a responsibility to help them learn to think critically for themselves. These
are affirmative responsibilities, not to be discharged simply by preventing them
from reading works for which they are not yet prepared. In these matters values
differ, and values cannot be legislated; nor can machinery be devised that will
suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.
It is not in the public interest to force a
reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or
its author as subversive or dangerous.
The ideal of labeling
presupposes the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by
authority what is good or bad for others. It presupposes that individuals must
be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. But Americans
do not need others to do their thinking for them.
It is the responsibility of publishers and
librarians, as guardians of the people's freedom to read, to contest
encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose
their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the
government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public
It is inevitable in
the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral, or
the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with
those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to
determine for themselves what they wish to read, and each group is free to
determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group
has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept
of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is
no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further,
democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of
public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or
It is the responsibility of publishers and
librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books
that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the
exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the
answer to a "bad" book is a good one, the answer to a "bad" idea is a good
The freedom to read
is of little consequence when the reader cannot obtain matter fit for that
reader's purpose. What is needed is not only the absence of restraint, but the
positive provision of opportunity for the people to read the best that has been
thought and said. Books are the major channel by which the intellectual
inheritance is handed down, and the principal means of its testing and growth.
The defense of the freedom to read requires of all publishers and librarians the
utmost of their faculties, and deserves of all Americans the fullest of their
state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here
stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we
believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of
cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these
propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that
are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the
comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that
what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the
suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a
dangerous way of life, but it is ours.
statement was originally issued in May of 1953 by the Westchester Conference of
the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, which
in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute to
become the Association of American Publishers.
Adopted June 25, 1953; revised January 28, 1972, January 16, 1991, July 12,
2000, June 30, 2004, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee.