Brownell Library Policy
- Mission Statement
- Library Use
- Access to Information
- Borrowing and Lending Privileges
- Computer and Internet Access
- Meeting Spaces
III. Intellectual Freedom
- Premise for the Collection
- Scope of the Collection
- Selection Policy
- Memorial Gifts
- Continuing Education
- Exhibit Policy
VIII. Library Bill of Rights
- The Freedom to Read Statement
Brownell Library Policy
I. Library’s Mission Statement
The 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.
The 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.
II. Library Use
A. Access to Information
1. The public, 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
2. 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 Desk.
B. Borrowing and Lending Privileges
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 paid for.
5. 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.
6. 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.
C. Computer and Internet Access
1. All patrons of Brownell Library, regardless of age, have equal access to information provided by computer and Internet access.
2. 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 are minors.
3. 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 authorities.
D. Meeting Space
1. The Kolvoord 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 its use.
2. The Library 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.
3. The following regulations govern the use of the Community Room:
a) 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 circumstances.
b) 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.
c) 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.
d) Alcohol and tobacco are not permitted
e) All activities should be completed by 10:30 p.m.
f) Groups must set up in advance and take down the room, putting chairs and equipment back where they found them
g) Individuals or groups shall be responsible for any damage occurring during the use of the room.
h) 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.
i) 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.
j) A representative of any group, organization or any individual using the room must sign an Acceptance of Responsibility Form at the time of any reservation.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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
A. Premise for the Collection
The Brownell Library endorses the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement (attached as Appendices)
B. Scope of the Collection
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 criteria.
5. 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 individual projects.
6. 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.
C. Selection Policy
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
1. A challenge is the questioning by a patron or patrons as to the contents of the library’s collection.
2. 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 fashion.
a) The patrons will address their concern with the appropriate librarian who is responsible for the area of the collection under consideration.
b) If unsatisfied the patron will complete the Library’s Materials Reconsideration Form.
c) 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:
(1) The Selection Policies of the Library
(2) The American Library Association Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statements
(3) Supporting documents, such as book reviews, newspaper articles, etc. which may have been taken into consideration when first ordering or adding materials.
d) 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:
(1) The basis for the patron’s complaint
(2) The issues 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.
e) 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.
f) 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:
(1) Written copies of relevant policies and the complaint form will be made available by prior request to all those attending.
(2) A specific length of time will be allotted for the public hearing.
(3) Adequate space will be made available for all interested parties to attend the meeting.
(4) The 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.
(5) The Board will listen to all speakers and will issue its decision at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
(6) Once the 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.
1. 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 Users
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 Library Users
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 Brownell Library 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 member should
- Ask to see identification
- Ask the officer if he or she has binding legal demand.
- Call the 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.
- Direct the individual requesting information to speak with the Director who will follow the procedure below.
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
- Village Attorney– 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.
3. Director or Staff in Charge procedure for handling requests from law enforcement officers
If the individual does not present photo identification and/or a binding legal demand, the Director or Staff in charge should:
- Review and make a copy of whatever identification information the individual does present;
- Advise the individual that the library cannot comply without appropriate identification and documented legal authorization;
- Direct the 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.
Vermont Statutes Annotated Online. 22 V.S.A. §§ 171-173
1 V.S.A. §§ 317(c) (19)
Accepted by the Brownell Library Trustees January 20, 2009
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
B. Memorial Gifts
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.
V. Continuing Education
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.
VI. Exhibit Policy
A. 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.
B. 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.
C. 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.
D. 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.
E. 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.
F. 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 confidential.
Accepted by the Library Trustees Sept. 21, 2004
VIII. Library Bill of Rights
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
- 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.
IX. The Freedom to Read Statement
The 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.
Most 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.
These 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.
Such 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.
Now 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.
We 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 offerings.
The 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.
We 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.
Publishers and 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 information.
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 self-censorship.
- 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 one.
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 support.
We 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.
This 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.