Economic Barriers to Information Access: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
CHAPTER 4: Library
COMPUTER ID: LS-16
Title: Economic Barriers to Information Access:
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
Economic Barriers to Information Access:
An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
A democracy presupposes an informed citizenry. The First Amendment
mandates the right
of all persons to free expression, and the corollary right to receive the constitutionally
protected expression of others. The publicly supported library provides free, equal, and
equitable access to information for all people of the community the library serves. While
the roles, goals and objectives of publicly supported libraries may differ, they share this
The library's essential mission must remain the first consideration for librarians and
governing bodies faced with economic pressures and competition for funding.
In support of this mission, the American Library Association has enumerated certain
principles of library services in the Library Bill of Rights
Principles Governing Fines, Fees, and User Charges
Article l of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information,
and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.
Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states:
A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin,
age, background, or views.
The American Library Association opposes the charging of user fees for the provision of
information by all libraries and information services that receive their major support from
public funds. All information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the
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library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should be readily, equally
and equitably accessible to all library users.
Libraries that adhere to the principles systematically monitor their programs of service for
potential barriers to access and strive to eliminate such barriers when they occur. All library
policies and procedures, particularly those involving fines, fees, or other user charges,
should be scrutinized for potential barriers to access. All services should be designed and
implemented with care, so as not to infringe on or interfere with the provision or delivery of
information and resources for all users. Services should be reevaluated regularly to ensure
that the library's basic mission remains uncompromised.
Librarians and governing bodies should look for alternative models and methods of library
administration that minimize distinctions among users based on their economic status or
financial condition. They should resist the temptation to impose user fees to alleviate
financial pressures, at long-term cost to institutional integrity and public confidence in
Library services that involve the provision of information, regardless of format, technology,
or method of delivery should be made available to all library users on an equal and
equitable basis. Charging fees for the use of library collections, services, programs, or
facilities that were purchased with public funds raises barriers to access. Such fees
effectively abridge or deny access for some members of the community because they
reinforce distinctions among users based on their ability and willingness to pay.
Principles Governing Conditions of Funding
Article II of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal
Article III of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to
provide information and enlightenment.
Article IV of the Library Bill of Rights states:
Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting
abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
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The American Library Association opposes any legislative or regulatory attempt to impose
content restrictions on library resources, or to limit user access to information, as a
condition of funding for publicly supported libraries and information services.
The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression is violated when the right to
receive that expression is subject to arbitrary restrictions based on content.
Librarians and governing bodies should examine carefully any terms or conditions attached
to library funding and should oppose attempts to limit through such conditions full and equal
access to information because of content. This principle applies equally to private gifts or
bequests and public funds. In particular, librarians and governing bodies have an obligation
to reject such restrictions when the effect of the restriction is to limit equal and equitable
access to information.
Librarians and governing bodies should cooperate with all efforts to create a community
consensus that publicly supported libraries require funding unfettered by restrictions. Such
a consensus supports the library mission to provide the free and unrestricted exchange of
information and ideas necessary to a functioning democracy.
The Association's historic position in this regard is stated clearly in a number of Association
policies: 50.4 "Free Access to Information," 50.8 "Financing of Libraries," 51.2 "Equal
Access to Library Service," 51.3 "Intellectual Freedom," 53 "Intellectual Freedom Policies,"
59.1 "Policy Objectives," and 60 "Library Services for the Poor.
Adopted June 30, 1993, by the ALA council
Economic Barriers to Information Access
- Marathon County Public Library
300 North First Street Wausau WI 54403 USA
Account Status: 715-261-7209 (24/7)