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Intellectual Freedom Committee: Purpose

July 7, 1984 Draft of the Intellectual Freedom Handbook

Prepared by Dan Koper

Revised July 9, 1984 by the NDLA Intellectual Freedom Committee

Revised April 2008 by the NDLA Intellectual Freedom Committee

Revised August 2022 by the NDLA Intellectual Freedom Committee

The purpose of the NDLA Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) is threefold: 

  1. The IFC will annually review and update as necessary the NDLA “Intellectual Freedom Handbook” in time for the yearly NDLA conference. 

  2. The IFC will encourage libraries to promote intellectual freedom and the first amendment through programs, displays, reading lists and similar activities. 

  3. The IFC will promote librarian, trustee and school administrator awareness of intellectual freedom concerns and issues through the Intellectual Freedom webpages, “The Goodstuff” newsletter, workshops, conference programs and through the NDLA listserv and other electronic means. 

I. IFC Annual Report

The IFC will present an annual report to the NDLA Executive Board on the status of intellectual freedom in the state. The report will include general statistics on challenges both to materials and patron records. THIS REPORT WILL NOT IDENTIFY SPECIFIC LIBRARIES OR INCIDENTS. The report will also include recommendations deemed appropriate by the IFC to maintain and promote intellectual freedom within the state. 

II. Regional and National Liaison

The IFC chairperson will act as a liaison for NDLA to regional and national groups concerned with intellectual freedom. 

III. Assistance and advice

The IFC will provide assistance and advice to librarians, trustees and school administrators as requested. The IFC may also make public statements as necessary to promote or support intellectual freedom. 

IV. Awareness

The IFC will actively promote awareness of intellectual freedom issues by providing information, workshops and conference programs for librarians, trustees and school administrators. The IFC will be responsive to the needs of those most involved in the day to day activities where intellectual freedom is most vulnerable. 

V. Policies and Procedures

All libraries are encouraged to establish the following policies and set a date to annually review them. Libraries may choose not to use the model policies in this handbook, but should create something similar to fit their environment. 

A. General Policy This covers the rules under which the library operates, i.e. hours, length of loan period, conduct in the library, overdue book policy, etc. This should also include policies on displays, meetings and programs held at the library. 

B. Material Selection Policy This covers the purpose, goals and procedures of selection for your library and the conditions of acceptance and disposition of donated material. A portion should be devoted to the systematic withdrawal of materials from the collection.  

C. Procedure for Challenging Materials This should include a copy of the request for reconsideration of material form, the purpose and procedure of the challenge process and instructions to send an initial and final report on the challenge to the NDLA IFC. 

D. Policy on Confidentiality of Records This should state which records are considered confidential and the conditions under which they will be released, e.g., court order. It is important to be aware of the current law regarding open public meetings and records. However, the right to privacy of patron records should be closely guarded and the policy should note the distinction between the two. The policy should also include instructions to send an initial and final report on the challenge to the NDLA IFC. 

VI. Legislation

Legislation affecting intellectual freedom must be monitored not only at the state and national level, but also at the city, county and school district level. Legislative challenges to intellectual freedom are not always as obvious as censorship. Legislative action can strengthen as well as weaken the ability of libraries to dispense information in a free society. The IFC, librarians, trustees and school administrators need to stay informed and share information on legislative action affecting intellectual freedom. 

Speaking out is sometimes difficult, especially if we find a particular piece of material or issue personally unpleasant. However, we must recognize that individual taste is not always the best arbitrator of a free and open exchange of ideas.

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