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Freedom of Information

Libraries and Your First Amendment Rights

In an era where information is readily available at our fingertips, libraries stand as guardians of intellectual freedom, championing the right of every individual to access a wide spectrum of information. This commitment to fostering informed thought and protecting the First Amendment rights of the public is a core value of public libraries.

At Deschutes Public Library—and at libraries across the county—we recognize that intellectual freedom is intertwined with the fundamental right to freedom of speech, and an informed citizenry is essential to exercising that free speech. Our First Amendment rights are closely linked to the right to access information, and the courts have held that public libraries are the cornerstone of this access.

Deschutes Public Library’s mission is to enrich the community through equitable, open access to books, services, and resources that inspire people to reach for their dreams. Attempts to restrict access to certain materials through book bans and censorship pose a threat to the diversity of information available. The library stands firm in its resolve to safeguard the intellectual freedom of the community by providing access to a wide array of materials, even those that may be controversial or challenging.

5Rs of Censorship

Book Bans and Challenges

While Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign that spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books, intellectual freedom is something that libraries strive to protect every day. The intention of Banned Books Week is to celebrate the freedom to read while recognizing the works that have faced book challenges over the year. Formally, a "book banning" takes place when a library removes a book from its shelves based on someone’s request. When a title has been requested to be removed (known as a "request for reconsideration"), that act is called a book challenge. Both formal book bans and challenges are acknowledged in the celebration of Banned Books Week.

If a library does remove materials from its collection, that decision must be based on objective selection criteria and not concern about the material’s content. With access to information directly tied to the mission of libraries, libraries must have objective reasoning behind removal of materials. That's where Deschutes Public Library’s Collection Development Policy steps in. It aids library staff in selecting, acquiring, and maintaining—within a limited budget—a well-rounded collection of materials. A collection development plan also informs the public about the principles and processes upon which material selections and de-selections are made.

In a time of heightened division, the library's commitment to freedom of information takes on even greater significance. Recognizing that understanding different perspectives can bridge divides, libraries seek to provide a platform where diverse voices can be heard. By offering a plethora of viewpoints, libraries foster an environment where patrons can engage in informed discussions and learn from one another.

What You Can Do

A wave of book banning and censorship is happening at public libraries and schools across the country. When those events occur, one of the most effective things any community can do is to go to their school board and library board meetings and voice their stance against censorship. Intellectual freedom and access to information is essential in a functioning democracy. Celebrate your right to read by staying informed and engaging in healthy discourse.

Free people read freely.

Has There Been a Challenge at Your School Or Public Library?

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Check the Intellectual Freedom Toolkit for next steps.

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Page Last Modified Friday, September 15, 2023