The American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights protects it, the Office of Intellectual Freedom works to show the importance of it, and it is constantly brought up in new issues that are encountered.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”[1]

The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights as a whole protects Intellectual Freedom of patrons.


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.[2]

Though this was adapted in 1948, it was amended in the coming years to keep up with the issues. One of the newest adoptions of the ALA Council was the “Importance of Education to Intellectual Freedom: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.”[3] Adopted on July 15, 2009, this interpretation discusses that in order to support intellectual freedom through education; libraries of all types need to protect the right to it. The Library Bill of Rights was broken down using specific articles from it, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also used to point out the ala.jpgimportance of protecting intellectual freedom. Portions of Article 26 from the Declaration of Human Rights were mentioned as well, "(1) Everyone has the right to education.Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”[4]

Libraries of all types foster education by promoting the free expression and interchange of ideas. Libraries use resources, programming, and services to strengthen intellectual and physical access to information and thus build a foundation of intellectual freedom.[5] It is through these steps that libraries are able to not only educate patrons about what is out there, but they provide the resources necessary for the patrons to expand their knowledge and interpret the information provided to them. Through this comes another issue, privacy.

As the ALA states, “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association.”[6] In order to really protect intellectual freedom, libraries must also respect patrons’ privacy because, when users recognize or fear that their privacy or confidentiality is compromised, true freedom of inquiry no longer exists.[7] If a patron’s privacy is challenged in any way, their right to intellectual freedom is also challenged, which goes against what the Library Bill of Rights works towards. Libraries have a long-standing commitment to an ethic of facilitating, not monitoring, access to information.[8]

krug-lg.jpgIntellectual Freedom is so important, that in 1967, Judith Krug founded the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. The mission of the Office for Intellectual Freedom is "implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association's basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials."[9] The Office of Intellectual Freedom hosts a number of projects and initiatives, including "Banned Books Week," which is described in depth on its page. Within this office are many different oversight goups, each of which holds and important place in working for the intellectual freedom of the public.

Intellectual Freedom continues to be an important issue, and it is our duty as librarians to protect it. What are you going to do to protect the intellectual freedom of your patrons?


[1] United Nations. (1948, December 10). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved

[2] American Library Association Council. (1948, June 18). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved September

[3] American Library Association Council. (2009, July 15). Importance of Education to Intellectual

[4] United Nations. (1948, December 10). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved

[5] American Library Association Council. (2009, July 15). Importance of Education to Intellectual

[6, 7, 8] American Library Association Council. (2002, June 19). Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library

[9] American Library Association Council. (1967, December 1). Office for Intellectual Freedom.