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Statement on Labeling, An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
CHAPTER 4: Library
COMPUTER ID: LS-14
Title: Statement on Labeling, An Interpretation of the Library Bill of
Effective Date: 11-24-86
Authorized By: Library Board of Trustees
Date of Last Review: 7-2013
LABELS AND RATING SYSTEMS
An Interpretation of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS
Libraries do not advocate the ideas found in their collections or in resources accessible
through the library. The presence of books and other resources in a library does not
indicate endorsement of their contents by the library. Likewise, the ability for library
users to access electronic information using library computers does not indicate
endorsement or approval of that information by the library.
Labels on library materials may be viewpoint-neutral directional aids that save the time
of users, or they may be attempts to prejudice or discourage users or restrict their
access to materials. When labeling is an attempt to prejudice attitudes, it is a censor's
tool. The American Library Association opposes labeling as a means of predisposing
people's attitudes toward library materials.
Prejudicial labels are designed to restrict access, based on a value judgment that the
content, language or themes of the material, or the background or views of the
creator(s) of the material, render it inappropriate or offensive for all or certain groups of
users. The prejudicial label is used to warn, discourage or prohibit users or certain
groups of users from accessing the material. Such labels may be used to remove
materials from open shelves to restricted locations where access depends on staff
Viewpoint-neutral directional aids facilitate access by making it easier for users to locate
materials. The materials are housed on open shelves and are equally accessible to all
users, who may choose to consult or ignore the directional aids at their own discretion.
Directional aids can have the effect of prejudicial labels when their implementation
becomes proscriptive rather than descriptive. When directional aids are used to forbid
access or to suggest moral or doctrinal endorsement, the effect is the same as
ITEM NUMBER: 4.14 b
A variety of organizations promulgate rating systems as a means of advising either their
members or the general public concerning their opinions of the contents and suitability
or appropriate age for use of certain books, films, recordings, Web sites, or other
materials. The adoption, enforcement, or endorsement of any of these rating systems
by the library violates the Library Bill of Rights
. Adopting such systems into law may be
unconstitutional. If such legislation is passed, the library should seek legal advice
regarding the law's applicability to library operations.
Publishers, industry groups, and distributors sometimes add ratings to material or
include them as part of their packaging. Librarians should not endorse such practices.
However, removing or destroying such ratings - if placed there by, or with permission of,
the copyright holder - could constitute expurgation (see Expurgation of Library
Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights).
Some find it easy and even proper, according to their ethics, to establish criteria for
judging materials as objectionable. However, injustice and ignorance, rather than justice
and enlightenment, result from such practices. The American Library Association
opposes any efforts that result in closing any path to knowledge.
Adopted July 13, 1951, by the ALA Council; amended June 25, 1971; July 1, 1981;
June 26, 1990; January 19, 2005.
- Marathon County Public Library
300 North First Street Wausau WI 54403 USA
Account Status: 715-261-7209 (24/7)