Meeting Rooms, Exhibit Spaces and Bulletin Boards, An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
CHAPTER 4: Library
COMPUTER ID: LS-7
Title: Meeting Rooms, Exhibit Spaces and Bulletin Boards,
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
EXHIBIT SPACES AND BULLETIN BOARDS
Libraries often provide exhibit spaces and bulletin boards. The uses made of these spaces
should conform to the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS: Article I states, "Materials should not
be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their
creation." Article II states, "Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of
partisan or doctrinal disapproval." Article VI maintains that exhibit space should be
made available "on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals
or groups requesting their use."
In developing library exhibits, staff members should endeavor to present a broad spectrum
of opinion and a variety of viewpoints. Libraries should not shrink from developing exhibits
because of controversial content or because of the beliefs or affiliations of those whose
work is represented. Just as libraries do not endorse the viewpoints of those whose works
are represented in their collections, libraries also do not endorse the beliefs or viewpoints of
topics which may be the subject of library exhibits.
Exhibit areas often are made available for use by community groups. Libraries should
formulate a written policy for the use of these exhibit areas to assure that space is provided
on an equitable basis to all groups that request it.
Written policies for exhibit space use should be stated in inclusive rather than exclusive
terms. For example, a policy that the library's exhibit space is open "to organizations
engaged in educational, cultural, intellectual, or charitable activities" is an inclusive
statement of the limited uses of the exhibit space. This defined limitation would permit
religious groups to use the exhibit space because they engage in intellectual activities, but
would exclude most commercial uses of the exhibit space.
A publicly supported library may designate use of exhibit space to strictly "library-related"
activities, provided that the limitation is viewpoint neutral and clearly defined.
ITEM NUMBER: 4.07b
Libraries may include in this policy rules regarding the time, place, and manner of use of
the exhibit space, so long as the rules are content neutral and are applied in the same
manner to all groups wishing to use the space. A library may wish to limit access to exhibit
space to groups within the community served by the library. This practice is acceptable
provided that the same rules and regulations apply to everyone, and that exclusion is not
made on the basis of the doctrinal, religious, or political beliefs of the potential users.
The library should not censor or remove an exhibit because some members of the
community may disagree with its content. Those who object to the content of any exhibit
held at the library should be able to submit their complaint and/or their own exhibit proposal
to be judged according to the policies established by the library.
Libraries may wish to post a permanent notice near the exhibit area stating that the library
does not advocate or endorse the viewpoints of exhibits or exhibitors.
Libraries that make bulletin boards available to public groups for posting notices of public
interest should develop criteria for the use of these spaces based on the same
considerations as those outlined above. Libraries may wish to develop criteria regarding
the size of material to be displayed, the length of time materials may remain on the bulletin
board, the frequency with which material may be posted for the same group, and the
geographic area from which notices will be accepted.
Adopted July 2, 1991, by the ALA Council;
amended June 30, 2004
Many libraries provide meeting rooms for individuals and groups as part of a program of
service. Article VI of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS states that such facilities should be
made available to the public served by the given library "on an equitable basis, regardless
of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use."
Libraries maintaining meeting room facilities should develop and publish policy statements
governing use. These statements can properly define time, place, or manner of use; such
qualifications should not pertain to the content of a meeting or to the beliefs or affiliations of
the sponsors. These statements should be made available in any commonly used
language within the community served.
ITEM NUMBER: 4.07c
If meeting rooms in libraries supported by public funds are made available to the general
public for non-library sponsored events, the library may not exclude any group based on the
subject matter to be discussed or based on the ideas that the group advocates. For
example, if a library allows charities and sports clubs to discuss their activities in library
meeting rooms, then the library should not exclude partisan political or religious groups
from discussing their activities in the same facilities. If a library opens its meeting rooms to
a wide variety of civic organizations, then the library may not deny access to a religious
organization. Libraries may wish to post a permanent notice near the meeting room stating
that the library does not advocate or endorse the viewpoints of meetings or meeting room
Written policies for meeting room use should be stated in inclusive rather than exclusive
terms. For example, a policy that the library's facilities are open "to organizations engaged
in educational, cultural, intellectual, or charitable activities" is an inclusive statement of the
limited uses to which the facilities may be put. This defined limitation would permit religious
groups to use the facilities because they engage in intellectual activities, but would exclude
most commercial uses of the facility.
A publicly supported library may limit use of its meeting rooms to strictly "library-related"
activities, provided that the limitation is clearly circumscribed and is viewpoint neutral.
Written policies may include limitations on frequency of use, and whether or not meetings
held in library meeting rooms must be open to the public. If state and local laws permit
private as well as public sessions of meetings in libraries, libraries may choose to offer both
options. The same standard should be applicable to all.
If meetings are open to the public, libraries should include in their meeting room policy
statement a section which addresses admission fees. If admission fees are permitted,
libraries shall seek to make it possible that these fees do not limit access to individuals who
may be unable to pay, but who wish to attend the meeting. Article V of the LIBRARY BILL
OF RIGHTS states that "a person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged
because of origin, age, background, or views." It is inconsistent with Article V to restrict
indirectly access to library meeting rooms based on an individual's or group's ability to pay
for that access.
Adopted July 2, 1991, by the ALA Council.
- Marathon County Public Library
300 North First Street Wausau WI 54403 USA
Account Status: 715-261-7209 (24/7)