Intellectual Freedom Toolkit

The Vermont Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee assembled this Intellectual Freedom Toolkit to help library workers better understand and deal with important intellectual freedom issues. Librarians historically protect civil liberties and intellectual freedom, and we hope these tools help equip you to continue in that tradition.  Please contact us with any questions or suggestions by emailing the committee chair at



The American Library Association (ALA) Internet Toolkit is intended to be a practical guide to managing Internet services in libraries of all types. It includes up-to-date information on filtering, the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act, the use of, and access to, social media in libraries, guidelines on developing Internet policies, and practical advice on handling messaging and communications concerning library Internet services.
View ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual from ALA.

CIPA and Filtering  Technology
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed in 2000, requires any school or library that receives federal financial assistance for Internet access either through direct federal funding or through the “universal service” (e-rate) program to have a “technology protection measure” that prevents access to “visual depictions” that are “obscene,” “child pornography,” and also in the case of computers used by minors, “harmful to minors.” Many companies promoted Internet filters as the solution. But most filters use keyword matching to identify Web sites that should be blocked, and the results are far from perfect. Filters do not block all content in the prohibited categories and may give library patrons, especially parents, a false sense of security. Also troubling is the fact that filters have blocked pages that contain constitutionally protected free speech and helpful information such as Web sites about breast cancer, Web pages of towns named “Essex” (“sex” appears in the name), and the Web site of Congressman Dick Armey (because of the word “Dick”).

Statement on Library Use of Filtering Software
Adopted by the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee in 1997 and revised in 2000, this statement describes Internet filters, outlines their shortcomings, explains the latest Supreme Court ruling regarding their use in libraries, and enumerates ways in which libraries can promote access to the Internet.
View more information on filters and filtering at the ALA Web site.

Vermont Library Association Filtering Statement
Adopted by the Vermont Library Association board in 1999, this statement articulates VLA’s support for the principle of free and open access to information and ideas, regardless of the medium in which they exist. The statement explains that the association does not advocate the use of Internet filters because they block constitutionally protected free speech and jeopardize the effectiveness of the library in providing access to important information.
Please read the VLA Statement.

Working With Community Leaders
This checklist prepared by American Library Association offers concrete, practical ways in which library workers can educate various constituents about intellectual freedom and filtering, including: library board members, friends of the library, elected officials and their staffs, administrators of academic institutions, local media, and local citizen groups. It includes links to many ALA resources.
View the checklist at the ALA Web site.


Librarians have long believed that protecting patron privacy and confidentiality is essential to good library service, intellectual freedom, and a healthy democracy. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is meaningless unless people also have the right to hear and read without fear of recrimination. Privacy is important because if library users have to worry about being judged, punished or put under surveillance, they may self-censor and not read the things they want to read or seek answers to their questions.

Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights on Privacy
Adopted by American Library Association Council in 2002, this document explains why privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. It outlines the rights of library users and the responsibilities of libraries to protect privacy and confidentiality. View this document at the ALA Web site.

Guidelines for Developing a Library Privacy Policy
These guidelines cover everything a librarian needs to know to write a policy for her or his library, including background on privacy law andALA positions, advice on how to draft a policy, information on special considerations such as services to minors, a model policy, and sample policies from various libraries. View the guidelines at the ALA Web site.

Questions and Anwers on Privacy and Confidentiality
The Privacy Subcommittee of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee has prepared this “Q & A” to provide additional guidance for librarians struggling with privacy issues.
View the Q &A at the ALA Website.

Sample Library Confidentiality Policies

Many Vermont libraries have written policies that prohibit the release of personally identifiable information about patrons and their use of library resources and services, unless the library is served with a court order. Following are examples from two libraries: University of Vermont Libraries and Sherburne Memorial Library. Library workers are invited to adapt these policies for their libraries.

View the UVM policy at the UVM University Libraries Web site.
View the Sherburne policy at the Sherburne Memorial Library Web site.


Libraries must frequently deal with objections to free access to library materials. Addressing those challenges requires a comprehensive policy, knowledge and understanding of intellectual freedom principles, and sensitivity to community needs and concerns. The American Library Association offers extensive resources and tools to craft a comprehensive materials selection policy that balances the right to disseminate ideas with the rights of individuals to voice their opinions. Tools for effectively dealing with challenges when they occur are available on the ALA Web site.

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A
This document, prepared by the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, is designed to answer some of the basic Intellectual Freedom questions and help prepare librarians to deal with challenges.
View the Q & A document at the ALA Web site.

Challenge Contacts

Librarians dealing with challenges are urged to contact theVermont Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair and the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom Challenge Support at 800-545-2433, ext. 4223.