BOX 8.2

The American Library Association’s Library Users’ Bill of Rights

The American Library Association’s (ALA’s) Library Users’ Bill of Rights was adopted by the ALA Council on June 18, 1948. It was amended on February 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980, and inclusion of “age” was reaffirmed on January 23, 1996.

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.

SOURCE: See the American Library Association Web site at

about who was reading which books. Many libraries were early adopters of systems in which patrons were identified by the numbers on their library cards. Only the library could make the correlation between the numbers and the people to whom they were assigned. The records of who had checked out the books (often available on paper cards placed in the books when those books were on the shelves) contained only the numbers. Further, more complete records linking numbers to names were destroyed soon after the book had been returned.

Although there are no federal laws protecting the privacy of library patrons, 48 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws and the other two states have prevailing opinions from their attorneys general.

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