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Intellectual Freedom

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Thinking about Intellectual Freedom

Overview Professional Statements

Policies and Procedures




  • Definitions (from the American Library Association)

  • Libraries: An American Value (American Library Association)

  • Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q-and-A (from the American Library Association)

  • Intellectual Freedom Issues and Resources (American Library Association)

  • The First Amendment in Schools (National Coalition Against Censorship)

  • Reading, Writing, and Censorship by Barbara Miner (Rethinking Schools, Spring, 1998)

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    Selected Professional Statements

    From the American Library Association: \

  • Library Bill of Rights and its Interpretations

  • Freedom to Read Statement

    From selected Educational Organizations:

  • National Council for the Social Studies: Academic Freedom and the Social Studies Teacher

  • National Council of Teachers of English: Students' Right to Read

  • National Council of Teachers of English: Academic Freedom

  • Wisconsin State Reading Association: Position Statement on Intellectual and Academic Freedom
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    Policies and Procedures: Selected Guidelines

    One of the strongest defenses against censorship is having board-approved (school board, library board) policies and procedures in place. Ideally these provide broad guidance for librarians and teachers in choosing materials based on the purpose of the collection or the goals of the curriculum, and outline specific steps to be followed in case of a complaint. Models that embrace these ideals include:

  • Public Libraries: Sample Library Policies and Policy Resources (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)

  • All Libraries: Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit (American Library Association)

  • Classrooms:

  • Guidelines for Selection of Materials in the English/Language Arts Program
    (National Council of Teachers of English)

    How to Write a Rationale (SLATE Starter Sheet, National Council of Teachers of English)

    Become familiar with your own intstitution's policies and procedures, including the steps that should be followed in case of a challenge to materials.

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    Among the biggest challenges librarians and teachers may face in choosing books or other materials for a library collection or for classroom use are their own fears and biases. Self-censorship—when a book or other item isn't purchased or made available due to fears of complaints or other repercussions, or due to personal dislike of the message or content of a work--is something that is difficult to acknowledge and to talk about. But it's important that librarians and teachers do acknowledge it, and do begin talking to one another about their struggles and concerns. These are critical first steps to overcoming this silent form of censorship.

  • Self-Censorship Checklist (New York Library Association)

  • NCTE Statement on Censorship and Professional Guidelines
    (National Council of Teachers of English)

  • Not Censorship but Selection by Lester Asheim (American Library Association)

  • The Effects of Censorship on Experienced High School English Teachers by Jane Agee
    (Center on English Learning and Achievement)

  • Moving toward a Method to Test for Self-Censorship by School Library Media Specialists
    (American Association of School Librarians)

  • A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship Is Rampant and Lethal by Deborah Lau Whelan
    (School Library Journal, February 2009)

  • The Problem of Self-Censorship (School Library Media Activities Monthly, November 2010)

  • Self-Censorship: Let's Talk about It (CCBC)

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    Recommended Books

    • At the Schoolhouse Gate: Lessons in Intellectual Freedom. Gloria Pipkin and ReLeah Cossett Lent. Heinemann, 2002.

    • Banned Books Resource Guide. American Library Association, various years.

    • Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers for Schools, 3rd ed . Henry Reichman. American Library Association, 2001.  

    • Ensuring Intellectual Freedom and Access to Information in the School Library Media Program. Helen Adams. Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

    • Intellectual Freedom Manual . 9th ed. American Library Association, 2015.  

    • Libraries, Access and Intellectual Freedom: Developing Policies for Public an Academic Libraries. Barbara Jones. American Library Association, 1999.

    • The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges. James LaRue. Libraries Unlimited, 2007.

    • Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library. Helen R. Adams. Libraries Unlimited, 2013.

    • Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your School Library: Scenarios from the Front Lines. Pat Scales. American Library Association, 2009.

    • School Censorship in the 21 st Century: A Guide for Teachers and School Library Media Specialists.   John S. Simmons and Eliza T. Dresang.   Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2001.

    • True Stories of Censorship Battles in America's Libraries. Edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco. American Library Association, 2012.
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