The Freedom to Read Statement

One of the most closely held librarian values is the freedom to read. For sixty years the American Library Association has supported 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 These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the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.”

A library collection that contains only “safe,” or “acceptable” works is failing to do its job, especially in an academic environment. If we represent a wide diversity of views we must on occasion hold unpopular items, or even information some might consider “dangerous.” But, in a democratic society we trust the citizens to draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions without the aid of a censor, no matter how well-intentioned.

“Ideas can be dangerous; but … the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society.”

You can read the rest of the statement here.


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