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Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks, An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
CHAPTER 4: Library
COMPUTER ID: LS-15
Title: Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks,
An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.
Effective Date: 11-24-86
Authorized By: Library Board of Trustees
Date of Last Review: 7-2013
Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-
government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedom of speech and the
corollary right to receive information. Libraries and librarians protect and promote these
rights by selecting, producing, providing access to, identifying, retrieving, organizing,
providing instruction in the use of, and preserving recorded expression regardless of the
format or technology.
The American Library Association expresses these basic principles of librarianship in its
Code of Ethics
and in the Library Bill of Rights and its Interpretations. These serve to
guide librarians and library governing bodies in addressing issues of intellectual freedom
that arise when the library provides access to electronic information, services, and
Libraries empower users by providing access to the broadest range of information.
Electronic resources, including information available via the internet, allow libraries to fulfill
this responsibility better than ever before.
Issues arising from digital generation, distribution, and retrieval of information need to be
approached and regularly reviewed from a context of constitutional principles and ALA
policies so that fundamental and traditional tenets of librarianship are not swept away.
Electronic information flows across boundaries and barriers despite attempts by individuals,
governments, and private entities to channel or control it. Even so, many people lack
access or capability to use electronic information effectively.
In making decisions about how to offer access to electronic information, each library should
consider its mission, goals, objectives, cooperative agreements, and the needs of the entire
community it serves.
ITEM NUMBER: 4:15 b
THE RIGHTS OF USERS
All library system and network policies, procedures, or regulations relating to electronic
information and services should be scrutinized for potential violation of user rights.
User policies should be developed according to the policies and guidelines established by
the American Library Association, including Guidelines for the Development and
Implementation of Policies, Regulations and Procedures Affecting Access to Library
Materials, Services and Facilities.
Users' access should not be restricted or denied for expressing or receiving constitutionally
protected speech. If access is restricted or denied for behavioral or other reasons, users
should be provided due process, including, but not limited to, formal notice and a means of
Information retrieved or utilized electronically is constitutionally protected unless determined
otherwise by a court of law with appropriate jurisdiction. These rights extend to minors as
well as adults (Free Access to Libraries for Minors
; Access to Resources and Services
in the School Library Media Program; Access for Children and Young Adults to
Libraries should use technology to enhance, not deny, access to information. Users have
the right to be free of unreasonable limitations or conditions set by libraries, librarians,
system administrators, vendors, network service providers, or others. Contracts,
agreements, and licenses entered into by libraries on behalf of their users should not
violate this right. Libraries should provide library users the training and assistance
necessary to find, evaluate, and use information effectively.
Users have both the right of confidentiality and the right of privacy. The library should
uphold these rights by policy, procedure, and practice in accordance with Privacy: An
Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.
EQUITY OF ACCESS
The Internet provides expanding opportunities for everyone to participate in the information
society, but too many individuals face serious barriers to access. Libraries play a critical
role in bridging information access gaps for these individuals. Libraries also ensure that the
public can find content of interest and learn the necessary skills to use information
Electronic information, services, and networks provided directly or indirectly by the library
should be equally, readily and equitably accessible to all library users. American
ITEM NUMBER: 4.15 c
Library Association policies oppose the charging of user fees for the provision of
information services by libraries that receive their major support from public funds (50.3
Free Access to Information; 53.1.14 Economic Barriers to Information Access; 60.1.1
Minority Concerns Policy Objectives; 61.1 Library Services for the Poor Policy
Objectives) All libraries should develop policies concerning access to electronic
information that are consistent with ALA's policy statements, including Economic Barriers
to Information Access: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, Guidelines for
the Development and Implementation of Policies, Regulations and Procedures
Affecting Access to Library Materials, Services and Facilities, and Resolution on
Access to the Use of Libraries and Information by Individuals with Physical or Mental
INFORMATION RESOURCES AND ACCESS
Providing connections to global information, services, and networks is not the same as
selecting and purchasing materials for a library collection. Determining the accuracy or
authenticity of electronic information may present special problems. Some information
accessed electronically may not meet a library's selection or collection development policy.
It is, therefore, left to each user to determine what is appropriate. Parents and legal
guardians who are concerned about their children's use of electronic resources
should provide guidance to their own children.
Libraries, acting within their mission and objectives, must support access to information on
all subjects that serve the needs or interests of each user, regardless of the user's age or
the content of the material. In order to preserve the cultural record and to prevent the loss
of information, libraries may need to expand their selection or collection development
policies to ensure preservation, in appropriate formats, of information obtained
electronically. Libraries have an obligation to provide access to government information
available in electronic format.
Libraries and librarians should not deny or limit access to electronic information because of
its allegedly controversial content or because of the librarians' personal beliefs or fear of
confrontation. Furthermore, libraries and librarians should not deny access to electronic
information solely on the grounds that it is perceived to lack value.
Publicly funded libraries have a legal obligation to provide access to constitutionally protect
information. Federal, state, county, municipal, local, or library governing bodies sometimes
require the use of Internet filters or other technological measures that block access to
constitutionally protected information, contrary to the Library Bill of Rights
Manual, 53.1.17, Resolution on the Use of Filtering Software in Libraries
). If a library
uses a technological measure that blocks access to information, it should be set at the least
restrictive level in order to minimize the blocking of constitutionally protected speech.
Adults retain the right to access all constitutionally protected information and to ask for the
technological measure to be disabled in a time manner. Minors also retain the right to
access constitutionally protected information and, at the minimum, have the right to ask the
library or librarian to provide access to erroneously blocked information in a timely manner.
Libraries and librarians have an obligation to inform users of these rights and to provide the
means to exercise these rights.
Electronic resources provide unprecedented opportunities to expand the scope of
information available to users. Libraries and librarians should provide access to information
presenting all points of view. The provision of access does not imply sponsorship or
endorsement. These principles pertain to electronic resources no less than they do to the
more traditional sources of information in libraries (Diversity in Collection Development).
Adopted January 24, 1996, by the ALA Council; amended January 19, 2005.
- Marathon County Public Library
300 North First Street Wausau WI 54403 USA
Account Status: 715-261-7209 (24/7)