The Library Bill of Rights: Article VI

Over a 7 week period, the Faculty at Brookens Library will be sharing a blog series expounding on each article of the Library Bill of Rights. Each of the 6 principles in the Library Bill of Rights broadly outlines an ideal that librarians support and upon which they model behavior, practice, and services. As with most ideals, pursuit of the tenets of the Library Bill of Rights is not an effortless task. Each of the points we’ll be discussing come with their own special challenges and obstacles. 

The Library Bill of Rights (LBR), or as it was originally named, Library’s Bill of Rights, of the American Library Association “serves as the library profession’s interpretation of how the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies to libraries” (Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2010, p. xix). Specifically related to the First Amendment, the LBR interprets how “the freedom of speech, or of the press” applies to library practices. The ALA interprets these freedoms broadly to include intellectual freedom, “a freedom of the mind, a personal liberty and a prerequisite for all freedoms [End Page 42] leading to action.” Intellectual freedom is “the bulwark of our constitutional republic . . . [and] . . . the rallying cry of those who struggle for democracy worldwide,” according to the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual, the official interpretive document and guide on implementing the LBR within the context of US libraries (Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2010, pp. xvii–xviii). (Reexamining the Origins of the Adoption of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, p. 1)

The 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.

I. 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.

II. 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.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. 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 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

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WEEK 6

VI. 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.

The primary public of an academic institution are the students, faculty and staff with a special emphasis on students, as they are the entire purpose of a university or college’s mission.   Hence, this would be the primary public with access to designated meetings spaces or exhibit areas.

Libraries may take an inclusionary as opposed to an exclusionary stance with regard to who may use its designated public use meeting rooms or exhibit spaces.  For a university, such a policy may express openness to organizations engaged in educational, cultural, intellectual or service-oriented objectives, without regard to religious or political beliefs.

A broad spectrum of opinion should be represented and controversy should not be avoided.  The library may choose to place a statement near public exhibit spaces indicating that views expressed in the exhibits don’t necessarily reflect the perspective of the library.

Whatever the policies of the library in question, these policies should be publicly proclaimed in writing so that it is clear who may request designated meeting rooms or exhibit spaces and assuring equitable access.  In addition, if the library extends its exhibit spaces to digital formats within the library’s domain, this should be clearly stated.  The  process for requesting meeting or exhibit space should be made clear as well.

The Association of College & Research Libraries’ Intellectual Freedom Committee published Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries (http://www.al.org/acrl/principles.html) in 1999 which was endorsed by the American Library Association Council in 2000.  Subsequently, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) endorsed them.  As Laurence Miller, past chair of the ACRL Intellectual Freedom Committee stated:  “As the information function of academic libraries within the higher education community becomes increasingly critical, it is important for that community to reaffirm its commitment to equality of access and to intellectual freedom in general.”
Written by: Pamela Salela, Associate Professor, Coordinator, Central Illinois Nonprofit Resource Center