The role of a public library in a democratic society is to ensure free and open access to information and materials for all as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Library boards protect and defend intellectual freedom
The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question cause or movement may be explored.” Put another way, intellectual freedom is the right to have access to information, the right of every individual to choose what information he or she wants and in what form.
“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.” [American Library Association, Access to Digital Information, Services and Networks]. Libraries and librarians protect and promote these rights by providing access to information from all points of view.
Intellectual freedom is based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Intellectual freedom is essential to a democracy. Democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free election” [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary]. Democracy assumes an informed citizenry. If people are restricted from obtaining information from all points of view, their ability to be informed is diminished and thus they cannot exercise self-government.
The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read located in the appendix will help you become more familiar with intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom includes more than books. See the Freedom to View, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/freedomviewstatement and Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/accessdigital.