Subject: Collection Development Policy Last Updated: 05/26/2009
Category: Supercedes:

Section 1

Part 1              Background

Since the library can acquire only those materials which limited finances will permit, a selection process sensitive to the needs of the Bedford community must take place.  This Collection Development Policy will clarify the criteria used in selecting materials.  A description of the community, the surrounding areas, and the library’s goals and objectives are included in order to put these criteria into perspective.

According to the 2000 Census The Bedford Public Library System serves a city of 6,299 and a county of 60,371 in a setting that is both rural and suburban. The diverse population blends retirement communities, farm communities, and suburban bedroom communities.

Bedford City’s population:
75%             white
22%             African American
3%            American Indians, Asians, and Latinos
6%             under the age of 5
22%             between the ages of 5-19 almost evenly divided among 5-9 year olds, 10-14 year olds and 15-19 year olds
75%             over 21
33%            between the ages of 35-64
23%             over age 65
3%             speaks a language other than English at home
56%             high school graduates
15%            bachelor’s degree or higher

Bedford County’s population:
92%             white
6%            African American
2%            American Indians, Asians, and Latinos
6%            under the age of five 
20%             between the ages of 5 and 19, closely divided among the 5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 year olds 
73%             over 21
45%             between the ages of 34 and 64
13%             over 65
3%             speaks a language other than English at home
59%             high school graduates
21%            bachelor’s degree or higher

The combined city and county per capita income is $26, 852. The city and county have fifteen elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools.  The school system also contains a Science and Technology Center and a Bridge School.

Both Lynchburg, to the east, and Roanoke, to the west, have libraries that include several special collections.  The Jones Memorial Library, a genealogical and local history library is housed above the Lynchburg Public Library’s main facility.  The Virginia Room at the Roanoke City Library’s main branch also includes genealogical material.  Hollins University and Roanoke College each house full government document depositories.  The Roanoke and Lynchburg law libraries provide legal resources for public use.  The Bedford City-County Museum also houses a small local history and genealogical collection.

The Bedford Public Library System is made up of a Central Library in Bedford City and five county libraries located in Big Island, Forest, Moneta, Montvale, and Stewartsville.  A courier runs among the locations three times a week.

The Central Library in Bedford City is so named because it is in the geographic center of the service area and because it serves as the headquarters library for the regional system. 

The Central Library contains a public service desk dedicated to reference and a core reference collection that serves as a supplementary resource for the rest of the library system.  Interlibrary loan services and homebound services are also headquartered at Central. 

The BPLS maintains five special collections and develops new ones as the need arises.  The Tharp room at Central contains materials that focus on Bedford history and a basic genealogy collection.  It also houses a special World War II collection, a subject of special interest because of Bedford’s severe D-Day losses and the fact that the National D-Day Memorial is within Central’s service area.  Selection concentrates on the history of D-Day and especially on Bedford’s role in the war.

A small collection of specialized materials pertaining to the management and development of library services is purchased for use by library staff.  The materials in this collection are housed in the facility or department deemed appropriate at the time of purchase.  These titles may be made available for patron use upon request.

The Forest Library which has Thomas Jefferson’s home, Poplar Forest, within its service area, maintains a collection of Jefferson materials.

The Montvale Library, located within the supposed area where the Beale treasure is hidden, maintains a collection of materials about the treasure.

The Moneta Library, because of continued community interest, maintains a special collection of home gardening materials.

Part 2              Mission and Vision Statement

Mission Statement

The mission of the Bedford Public Library System is to provide the adults and children of Bedford City and County with information and resources that support lifelong learning and enjoyment.

Vision Statement

The Bedford Public Library System will:

continue to serve the community by offering a broad range of services designed to foster the love of reading;

be the essential contact for all Bedford City and County residents, agencies and businesses in need of information;

serve as a gateway to a dynamic global network of information resources;

strive to locate and deliver information and resources efficiently, accurately and in a format requested by our customers;

provide excellent customer service by a trained and committed staff.

Collection Goals

In order to purchase and retain the best, most useful materials to fulfill this mission and to serve all of the people of Bedford city and county equally and impartially the library has established the following goals:
Part 3              Objectives

The library system will pursue the following objectives in order to fulfill its goals:

Section 2

Part 1              Responsibility

The responsibility for selecting materials legally rests with the library’s Board of Trustees.  The Board delegates this responsibility to the Library Director who appoints a Collection Development Committee to oversee the selection and development of the collection.  This committee consists of the Director, Assistant Director, the Adult Services Librarian, the Youth Services Librarian and a County Library Manager.  Library Managers, under the guidance of the committee, are actively involved in selecting and deselecting materials for their individual facilities.  The Adult Services Librarian selects adult materials for the Central Library and oversees system wide collection development.  The Youth Services Librarian selects children’s and young adult materials for the Central Library and oversees system wide collection development.  The Assistant Director selects media system wide.

Part 2              Freedom of Access

The Bedford Public Library System endorses the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, Free Access to Minors Statement, Freedom to Read Statement, and Freedom to View Statement.

The library will provide, as far as budget, space, and availability of materials allow, free access to all points of view.  Items will not be included or excluded because of political views, frank language (including expletives); controversial content; the race, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality of the author or other responsible party; or the approval or disapproval of an individual or group.  The library will attempt to impartially select materials that represent a wide range of views.  Individual use of library materials is a private and personal matter.  All citizens are free to reject for themselves materials of which they disapprove.  Responsibility for the reading, listening and viewing of library materials by children belongs to their parents or legal guardians and not with the library staff. 

Library materials are not marked in any way to indicate approval or disapproval.  Materials are not hidden or kept “behind the counter” unless necessary to prevent vandalism or theft.

Suggestions from the public regarding selection, retention or reconsideration of library materials are encouraged.  Selected materials will be removed from the collection only if shown not to follow collection development policy guidelines.  The material will be considered in its entirety and not on passages taken out of context.  Requests for reconsideration of materials must follow the procedures outlined in the reconsideration section of this policy.

The minimally processed (MP) collection of uncataloged paperbacks is chosen primarily from donations and does not seek to present a balanced representation of subject or views.

Part 3              Formats

Besides books, the library collects newspapers and periodicals in print, microform and electronic format, recorded books, recorded music, video recordings, and computer based resources.  The library also maintains a file of local interest items.

The library system collects textbooks only when they are the only source or the best source available in a subject area.

The library system collects materials created by local writers and artists when these works are published by mainstream publishers and fit the scope of the Collection Development Policy.  Works that receive extremely negative reviews or reviews that prove the work to be inaccurate or unauthentic will not be collected.  In the event that no review exists, the work will be reviewed by one or more of the library’s selectors and considered at the next quarterly meeting of the Collection Development Committee.

Self-published and published on demand titles will be added to the collection when there is a compelling reason within the scope of the Collection Development Policy to do so.  Reasons to add a self-published title include valuable local content, high local interest or favorable reviews by one or more of the library’s selectors.

As with other areas of the collection, donated as well as purchased copies must meet the above criteria.  Numbers of copies added is determined by budget restrictions, anticipated demand, and physical space limitations.

Since it is the library system’s responsibility to make materials available to all users, the BPLS does not collect rare publications that require special protection and handling.  However, fragile Bedford historical and genealogical materials may be collected if their condition allows at least in-library, patron use.

The library system maintains collection of circulating titles in Spanish for the recreational reading of patrons of all ages who are fluent in that language, as well as for those learning Spanish as a second language.  The collection reflects the current interest in this language evidenced by patron requests and the increase in number of both Spanish-speaking patrons who permanently reside in Bedford City and County and those who migrate here seasonally.  This collection is not intended to be comprehensive and concentrates on popular and classic fiction.

Other languages will be added and the Spanish language collection increased or ddecreased as demographic studies, patron registration, patron requests and community awareness indicate a change in the cultural makeup of the Bedford City/County population.

The reference collection is noncirculating with minimal duplication, selected for reliability and to reflect the focus of the rest of the collection.

The library collects large print materials to serve the visually handicapped.  Large print titles will be subject to the same selection criteria as other print materials with an emphasis on popular titles.

As funds allow, periodicals will be collected at the same concentration as other print materials in their subject area.  Titles for research and study are collected in computer based format. Hard copy subscriptions will be purchased for more popular titles where immediacy and browsability are important.   Hard copies of each title are kept for at least six months.  Some older issues are maintained on microfiche at Bedford Central.  BPLS no longer collects microfiche because access to 20 years of full text back issues is provided by database subscription.

The library collects newspapers, but because of limited space does not store back issues for long periods of time.  The Bedford Central Library retains copies of the Bedford Bulletin on microfiche.

The library does not collect 16mm film, phonograph records, realia, charts, filmstrips, sheet music, or music scores.

Part 4              Selection Aids

Aids used in selecting materials include professional journals, popular journals, other popular media, publishers’ catalogs and flyers, vendors’ publications, charts and lists, staff recommendations, and patron recommendations.  All materials purchased must conform to Collection Development Policy criteria.

Part 5              Selection Criteria

Print materials are judged by the following criteria: 
The following procedures will apply when there is a transcending reason why an unreviewed work should be considered for the collection:
Nonprint materials are judged by the following factors as well as the above criteria.

Section 3
Collection Concentration Levels


Part 1              Definition

Collection concentration levels describe the depth and breadth to which the Bedford Public Library System collects specific classifications of materials.

Part 2              Nonfiction Concentration Levels

Broad Concentration:  Subject areas or classifications collected most extensively, both in depth and in numbers of titles.  Some duplicates will be purchased.  The library will buy as many current titles as possible and will maintain an extensive retrospective collection.

Intermediate Concentration:  Subject areas or classifications collected more selectively than those designated for broad concentration.  Materials are chosen to introduce, define, and give overviews of the subject as well as to indicate other sources for possible interlibrary loan.  Major dictionaries, encyclopedias and historical surveys are collected.  A retrospective collective of major titles is maintained.  Some duplicates may be purchased.

Narrow Concentration:  Subjects or classifications in which only a few selections are purchased beyond the basics.  The intent is to provide basic information and to detail sources for interlibrary loan if further information is needed.

Minimal Concentration:  Subjects or classifications in which only the most basic information is collected.

Popular Concentration:  The above four collection concentrations describe levels to be maintained continuously in the collection.  The library also buys popular materials on current hot topics from bestseller and projected bestseller lists as well as from past experiences of what will be local best sellers.  These titles will often not have value over time and may be purchased in paperback when possible.  PLEASE NOTE:  All best sellers do not fall into this ephemeral category.  Some will be purchased because they fit one of the other concentration levels.

The BPLS concentrates its nonfiction collection in the following manner:

000 General Works


NARROW CONCENTRATION:  UFO’s and unknowns; library and information science; general subject bibliographies; American general encyclopedias

100 Philosophy

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  well-being; happiness; success

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  psychology, ethics; Ancient Greek philosophy and modern Western philosophy

parapsychology and occultism; dreams and mysteries

200 Religion

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  Christian theology, experience, practice and life.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  Christian dictionaries; Christian Church in North America; Christian denominations and sects; Judaism; Islam; Biblical study; comparative religion; and classical religion.

300 Social Sciences:
BROAD CONCENTRATION:  local social services information and local government information.
INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  social problems and services other than local; state and federal government information; personal finances; education; customs; folklore.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  public administration; military science; sociology; statistics of populations; political science; real estate; etiquette.


400 Language

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  English language, written and pronouncing dictionaries, and standard usage.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  other modern Romance languages and Latin and Greek, written and pronouncing dictionaries and standard usage, sign language.

500 Pure Sciences

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  mathematics; astronomy; physics; chemistry; earth sciences; paleontology; life sciences; botany; zoology.

600 Technology

BROAD CONCENTRATION:  consumer health; family living and child rearing.

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  gardening; home economics; home building; and cookery. 

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  automobiles; technology; livestock; agriculture; other medical science; business management; engineering; engineering; applied physics.

700 The Arts

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  decorative and useful arts; painting and paintings; music; sports.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  historical and geographical treatment of the fine arts; art dictionaries and encyclopedia; architecture; graphic arts; photography and photographs; the performing arts.

POPULAR CONCENTRATION:  some biographies of popular artists in music, show business, and sports.

800 Literature

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  American and English literature.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  American and English literature history and description; literary criticism; literary dictionaries and encyclopedias; foreign language general surveys and representative works of major authors in translation.

900 History and Geography

BROAD CONNECTION:  Bedford history; and geography.

INTERMEDIATE CONCENTRATION:  Bedford genealogy; general geography and travel; general history of the United States; history of the Civil War; history of the Southeastern United States; history of Virginia.

NARROW CONCENTRATION:  historical dictionaries and encyclopedia; general world history; general ancient history; history of other areas of the world.

All areas not specifically listed will be collected in a Minimal Concentration.

Part 3              Fiction Concentration Levels

Broad Concentration:  authors or genres collected most extensively by the library.  These will include all new materials by an author, all in-print titles by an author, a broad selection of recommended titles in a genre, titles that complete a series.  Duplicates will be purchased based on projected circulation.

Intermediate Concentration:  authors or genres to be collected more selectively than in broad concentration.  These include recommended titles of major authors and recommended titles in a genre.  Some duplicates may be purchased.

Narrow Concentration:  authors or genres in which only a few representative selections are purchased.  These include best known titles of major authors and best-known samples of a designated genre.  Few duplicates will be purchased.

Minimal Concentration:  authors or genres in which only one or two basic selections are purchased.

Popular Concentration:  authors, genres or titles currently in vogue from bestseller and projected bestseller lists as well as from past experiences of what titles will be locally “hot.”  Many of these titles will not have value over time and may be purchased in paperback when possible.

If a title is considered to have lasting value, but not to be in continued heavy demand, some copies will be purchased in hardback and others purchased in paperback when possible.

The BPLS concentrates its fiction collection in the following manner:

Adventure - man against nature or enemies in exotic settings

Animal - plot follows animal’s natural experience in the wild or with people

Award Winners, Local

Award Winners, National and State

Beginning Readers - controlled vocabulary and style on a first and second grade level

Classics - works no longer contemporary, recognized by critics and curricula

Easy Readers - wordless picture books and/or books to be read aloud to a toddler through third grade level

Family Saga - traces the fortunes of several generations

Fantasy - uses magic or other fantastic elements

Foreign Literature - contemporary authors in English translation

Gothic - romantic suspense in lonely or exotic places

Graphic Novels - book length collections of sequential art containing a single story or set of interrelated stories.

High/Low - reading is three or more grades below interest level.

Historical - setting is a known or imagined period of human history.

Holiday - stories for religious or cultural events.

Horror - natural or supernatural.

Humorous - exaggerations or reality for entertainment.

Inspirational-plot demonstrates philosophy of faith.

Media-tie-ins - offshoots of popular entertainment

Mystery - explores how and why a crime or other event occurred.

Popular Reading - general appeal, no specific characteristics of other categories.

Realistic - explorations of human relationships and self-understanding.

Romance - theme is search for love.

Science Fiction - projections in time and space of scientific hypotheses.

Short Stories - anthologies or single author collections.

Sports - -athletic contest provides the focus of the plot.

Suspense/Intrigue - -through plots and counter plots, threat is prevented or survived.

Tales - original stories in a traditional or folk style.

Toddler - materials for infancy through two years.

Young Adult - materials for seventh through twelfth grades.

Western - adventure on the frontier, usually North American.

Any other genre will be collected at minimal concentration.

Section 4

The Bedford Public Library System encourages unrestricted, irrevocable gifts of monies or library materials from organizations, businesses and individuals.  These gifts are accepted with the understanding that they will be considered for addition to the collection in accordance with the Collection Development Policy.   However, the library reserves the right to sell or dispose of these donations through

Gifts donated to any facility in the system become the property of the system as a whole.

The BPLS, in accordance with IRS regulations, will not assign a value to donated materials.  However, for tax purposes the library will provide donors with a receipt of X number of books, boxes of books, books on tape etc.

Section 5

Part 1              Responsibility for deselection

Deselection is an integral and ongoing part of developing a collection.  The Collection Development Committee, assisted by the System Library managers, is responsible for judicious and timely deselection of the collection.

Part 2              Criteria for deselection

Content:  items that are outdated, superseded, obsolete, or inaccurate will be deselected.  Materials older than three years in the fields of science, health, medicine, finance, law, and inter-related topics should be carefully examined.

Condition:  items that are worn out, books whose pages are torn, soiled or missing, or with broken spines, torn covers or frayed bindings will be de-selected. These items may be considered for binding or repair, if the value of the material warrants the expense, and replacement is not possible or cost effective. 

Use Patterns:  items not circulated more than three times in the past five years, unused duplicates, or unneeded materials acquired through selection errors should be examined for possible deselection.

Decisions on whether to replace deselected materials, and with what, will be made by the Collection Development Committee with the assistance of the System Library managers.

In making deselection decisions, no distinction will be made among donated materials, memorial materials, and purchased materials.

Section 6
Request for Reconsideration of Materials

As is stated in section 2, part 2 of this Collection Development Policy, the library tries as far as budget, space, and availability of materials will allow to provide free access for the public to all points of view.  Items will not be included or excluded because of political views, frank language (including expletives); controversial content; the race; religion, or nationality of the author or other responsible party; or the approval or disapproval of an individual or group.  The library will attempt to impartially select materials that represent a wide range of views.

If a library patron objects to any item in the collection and wants to have the item formally reconsidered, the following procedures will be followed:

The individual must already have a current Bedford Public Library patron card or must have signed the parent/guardian permission statement on a minor’s registration card as parent or guardian responsible for that card.

A “Request for Reconsideration of Material” form must be completely filled out and signed.

The request will be forwarded to the Library Director.  The Director will consult with the Collection Development Committee.  The results of this consultation will be communicated in writing to the patron in a timely manner.

If the patron wishes to appeal that decision, he/she may request a hearing by the Library Board.  After receiving the patron’s request, the Board will schedule a hearing, taking into consideration that Board members will need time to become familiar with the material.  After this hearing the Board, in consultation with the library director, will make its final decision.  No item will be removed from the collection without a court order if the Board decides that it is appropriate for the collection.


Section 7
Policy Review

Every two years the Collection Development Policy will be reviewed by the Library Director and the Collection Development Committee.  The policy as a whole with revised sections will then be submitted to the Board for approval.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. 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.

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
A Joint Statement by:
American Library Association
Association of American Publishers
Subsequently endorsed by:
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
The Association of American University Presses, Inc.
The Children's Book Council
Freedom to Read Foundation
National Association of College Stores
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Council of Teachers of English
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

Freedom to View Statement

The FREEDOM TO VIEW, along with the freedom to speak, to hear, and to read, is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In a free society, there is no place for censorship of any medium of expression. Therefore these principles are affirmed:

  1. To provide the broadest access to film, video, and other audiovisual materials because they are a means for the communication of ideas. Liberty of circulation is essential to insure the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.
  2. To protect the confidentiality of all individuals and institutions using film, video, and other audiovisual materials.
  3. To provide film, video, and other audiovisual materials which represent a diversity of views and expression. Selection of a work does not constitute or imply agreement with or approval of the content.
  4. To provide a diversity of viewpoints without the constraint of labeling or prejudging film, video, or other audiovisual materials on the basis of the moral, religious, or political beliefs of the producer or filmmaker or on the basis of controversial content.
  5. To contest vigorously, by all lawful means, every encroachment upon the public's freedom to view.

This statement was originally drafted by the Freedom to View Committee of the American Film and Video Association (formerly the Educational Film Library Association) and was adopted by the AFVA Board of Directors in February 1979. This statement was updated and approved by the AFVA Board of Directors in 1989. Endorsed by the ALA Council January 10, 1990

Free Access to Libraries for Minors

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.

Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, "A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views." The "right to use a library" includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.

Libraries are charged with the mission of developing resources to meet the diverse information needs and interests of the communities they serve. Services, materials, and facilities that fulfill the needs and interests of library users at different stages in their personal development are a necessary part of library resources. The needs and interests of each library user, and resources appropriate to meet those needs and interests, must be determined on an individual basis. Librarians cannot predict what resources will best fulfill the needs and interests of any individual user based on a single criterion such as chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation.

Libraries should not limit the selection and development of library resources simply because minors will have access to them. Institutional self-censorship diminishes the credibility of the library in the community, and restricts access for all library users.

Children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information in the library. Constitutionally protected speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children or young adults from ideas or images a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them.1 Librarians and library governing bodies should not resort to age restrictions in an effort to avoid actual or anticipated objections, because only a court of law can determine whether material is not constitutionally protected.
The mission, goals, and objectives of libraries cannot authorize librarians or library governing bodies to assume, abrogate, or overrule the rights and responsibilities of parents. As "Libraries: An American Value" states, "We affirm the responsibility and the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children's use of the library and its resources and services." Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources. Parents who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials, or facilities should so advise their children. Librarians and library governing bodies cannot assume the role of parents or the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between parent and child.

Lack of access to information can be harmful to minors. Librarians and library governing bodies have a public and professional obligation to ensure that all members of the community they serve have free, equal, and equitable access to the entire range of library resources regardless of content, approach, format, or amount of detail. This principle of library service applies equally to all users, minors as well as adults. Librarians and library governing bodies must uphold this principle in order to provide adequate and effective service to minors.

1See Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975)-"Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable [422 U.S. 205, 214] for them. In most circumstances, the values protected by the First Amendment are no less applicable when government seeks to control the flow of information to minors. See Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., supra. Cf. West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)."

Adopted June 30, 1972; amended July 1, 1981; July 3, 1991, June 30, 2004, by the ALA Council.