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Role of Trustees

In meeting challenges to intellectual freedom, public library trustees play three major roles:

1. Role of Policymaker—Library boards should update their materials selection/collection development policies to incorporate new technology and non-book materials. Be prepared by updating your library’s policy manual before you receive a complaint.

2. Role of Employer—The role of the board is to support decisions made by the library staff, pursuant to board-approved collection development policies. When materials are challenged, the board should support selection decisions if these fall within board-approved policies.

3. Role of Access Provider—If the library board decides to remove a properly selected item from the library’s collection, the library board has denied access to that item to all residents of the library’s service area. The public library is a limited public forum under the First Amendment, and the library board has the responsibility to protect the library’s patrons’ First Amendment rights of access to library materials. In preparation for challenges, read ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement and the Library Bill of Rights, as well as your library’s selection policy.

Written by Ruth Dukelow,

Access, March/April 1995, vol. 12, no. 5,

Published by the Library of Michigan

Copyright permission granted by the Library of Michigan and Lance Werner, Library of Michigan Library Law Specialist on 4/16/08

See also: North Dakota Public Library Trustees Manual

ALA Intellectual Freedom Resources for Trustees, Friends, and Foundations

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