Intellectual Freedom & The Law

Laura Salmons /

Know Your Role

Censorship isn't just about books anymore. As we all well know, technology is steadily advancing, providing a multitude of resources for our students, teachers, and communities. As a media specialist, it is imperative that we not only know, but are very familiar with, the laws governing our resources. Media specialists who know the laws, established policies, & procedures will be more adept at effectively protecting the rights of their students, ensuring that they are able to access the information they seek. Challenges to books and technology commonly come from parents, but anyone can challenge the collection. Position yourself in a manner to confidently and consistently address these challenges by knowing the established policies, procedures, and guidelines.

Laws, Policies, & Guidelines That Affect Intellectual Freedom:

  • Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), effective in 2001, states that any schools accepting discounted internet services through the e-rate program or funding from the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), must install or establish technology protection measures.
  • USA Patriot Act, effective in 2006, intended to help in the fight against terrorism by allowing more intrusive government access, but some feel that aspects of the act threaten confidentiality.
  • Library Bill of Rights, adopted in 1939, provides a list of policies intended to serve as a guide to library services.
  • Intellectual Freedom Manual, intended as a reference for librarians who are confronted with library issues relating to intellectual freedom.

Photo Credit: Dayton Metro Library-East Branch


ALA's Intellectual Freedom Page: Highlights action areas such as banned and challenged books, filtering, censorship and first amendment issues. Also provides links to additional resources on intellectual freedom.

Lukenbill, W. Bernard & Lukenbill, James F. Censorship: What do School Library Specialists Really Know? A Consideration of Student's Rights, the Law and Implications for a New Education Paradigm. School Library Media Research. Vol. 10, 2007

Hopkins, Dianne McAfee. School Library Media Centers and Intellectual Freedom. ALA.

Explains the importance of establishing a detailed collection development policy and library procedures to promote intellectual literacy. Challenges to materials and reasons why people challenge items are highlighted. The role of the library media specialist in regard to intellectual freedom is outlined. Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights on several issues is provided at the bottom of the page.

Adams, Helen R. Intellectual Freedom Online. AASL.

Discusses minor students' online rights and how CIPA affects those rights.