Spotlight on Reconsideration of Library Materials

Spotlight on Reconsideration of Library Materials 

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on December 15, 1791.

There are four sections on this topic. You can scroll down to see each section or you can click on the links below to go directly to a specific section.

  1. Understand the Challenges: Reconsideration of Library Materials Issues to Consider
  2. Use the Template: Review and Revise Your Polices Relating to Reconsideration of Library Materials
  3. Get a Second Opinion: Ask a System Consultant to Review Your Draft

Section 1

Understand the Challenges: Reconsideration of Library Materials Issues to Consider The Library Bills 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 that 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.

American Library Association

The American Library Association provides a wide array of resources to help library trustees and staff to understand intellectual freedom issues and to be prepared to address requests to reconsider library materials. The following links are to resources that will be of particular interest to public library trustees.

New York Library Association

The New York Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee “The Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) serves as a liaison between the NYLA membership and the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (ALA-OIF), and maintains a strong partnership with NYLA’s Intellectual Freedom Roundtable. The IFC promotes the use of ALA-OIF resources and services within New York State, and acts in concert with NYLA’s Legislative Committee to determine whether an intellectual freedom issue has a state legislative component. The IFC also administers the NYLA Intellectual Freedom Award.

ABLE: Administering Better Libraries – Educate

The ABLE web site is “maintained by the Nioga Library System, a cooperative association of twenty-one member public libraries within the following three Western New York Counties – Niagara, Orleans, and Genesee. Nioga serves to assist member public libraries in providing their communities with access to the broadest range of services. State aid supports Nioga’s operations and no fees are charged to member libraries for any services. The project was supported by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.”

The ABLE site provides information on intellectual freedom and censorship. Some of the materials on the site are excerpts from the NYLA Intellectual Freedom Manual, but the following documents stand alone.

Section 2

Use the Template: Review and Revise Your Policy on Reconsideration of Library Materials

The centerpiece of each of the NYLTO policy topics is a Policy Development Template. These templates have been developed by June Garcia, a nationally recognized authority on public library policies and co-author of Creating for Policies for Results: From Chaos to Clarity, (American Library Association, 2003).

For more information on using the templates, go to Structure Your Discussions: Policy Development Templates section in the Library Policy ABCs: Everything You Need to Know about Developing Library Policies topic.

Reconsideration of Library Materials Template: This template lists the questions that need to be addressed relating to the library’s policies and regulations relating to requests to reconsider library materials. This is a brief sampling of the questions you and your fellow board members will consider:

  1. Is there a form that the customer will be asked to complete which requests information about the item and why the customer feels that it is unsuitable or improperly classified?  
  2. What process will library staff follow to review the request for reconsideration and to respond to the customer? How is the customer made aware of the library’s decision? 
  3. If the customer disagrees with the library’s response, to whom can he or she address an appeal? What is the appeal process?
  4. Who has the ultimate say on whether the item is suitable for the collection or whether it has been properly classified?

To Generate Ideas, see the Development Questions on the Mid-Hudson Library System’s External Policy page:  Challenge of Library Materials

Database policies are to provide information and to spark ideas, but should be used in conjunction with the templates.

Section 3

Get a Second Opinion: Ask a System Consultant to Review Your Draft When you have finished your draft policy statement and regulations, you may send it to your system representative for review and feedback, if you wish.