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Intellectual Freedom Toolkit

Intellectual Freedom Toolkit

What is intellectual freedom? What does the First Amendment protect? Is there a difference between a challenge and a ban? Get answers with our Intellectual Freedom Fact Sheet. For information specifically about the legal test for obscenity, click here.

Next, start preparing for challenges to intellectual freedom with this quick guide.

You may also want to review our explanations of the collection development process and frequently challenged topics when considering how to talk about censorship.

The research, resources and discussion included here are only for purposes of information and research and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Libraries should contact their attorneys for advice with respect to a particular issue or problem.

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Using this Toolkit

Resources in this toolkit include:

Click on the above links to jump to a section.

 

Reporting Censorship 

If you hear of a challenge in your community, please share it by using this form so we can begin the work to find out how to help.

We encourage you to use this form to also request support concerning material challenges. These messages will be handled in confidence. We will not share your information with anyone without your permission.

The Michigan Cooperative Directors Association is working closely with MLA and the MI Right To Read coalition to ensure libraries across the state receive the support they need to defend the freedom to read. Michigan's network of Library Cooperative Directors will work together to provide regional support to libraries when the need arises. When you submit a request for support on this page, your library’s Cooperative Director will respond promptly to ensure you have the information, resources, and mobilization tools you need to address material challenges at your library.

American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom also collects statistics about censorship attempts. You may report incidents anonymously.

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For School Library Staff

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For Public Library Staff

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For Public Library Boards and Trustees

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For Parents and Caregivers

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Example Documents

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Crisis Communication Plan

A crisis is defined as an event that happens suddenly and unexpectedly that poses a significant threat to the operations and reputation of your library. A crisis communication plan is a critical part of crisis management – preparation is key. This structured approach provides a framework for how and what to communicate to intentionally address crises to minimize negative perceptions and impact. The purpose of this guide is to construct a framework to provide an accurate rapid response, establish accountability and minimize the impacts of a negative event.

Effective crisis communication will:

  1. Inform the public about the situation by providing accurate and timely information.
  2. Maintain a public perception about how your leadership is responding to a crisis.
  3. Provide clear instructions about what to do or how to help in order to reduce or limit the duration or impact of the crisis.
  4. Reinstate confidence and provide a future-oriented perspective.

View MLA's Crisis Communication Guide for more information.

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Videos and Podcasts

View additional recorded sessions though MLA Connect On-Demand.

Lance Werner (Director, Kent District Library) gives a summary of current intellectual freedom issues.

Advocacy Hour: Intellectual Freedom (December 2021)

Lance Werner, Director of the Kent District Library, and Amber McLain, Director of the Patmos Library, as they talk about intellectual freedom rights, share personal experiences, and open a conversation about book challenges, censorship, upholding rights to privacy, library audits, and MLA’s statement of principle. 

Advocacy Hour: Intellectual Freedom: When the Challenges Are Truly Political (March 2022)

When a book or materials challenge is made by people with legitimate interests in the outcome, however difficult it is to discuss, there will be an outcome in line with the First Amendment and your library's values. However, there is an entirely different class of book bans that are political, politicized, and performative which must be understood in order to be properly engaged. 

For public libraries, these challenges are used to attack the library's funding, its staff, or even its existence. In school libraries, these performative and politicized challenges seem to attack or negate the students the books represent. In order to face these unusual types of challenges, library leaders in both public and school settings need to see that these challenges are more expansive than previous intellectual freedom fights - and need to be prepared to engage them on multiple fronts at once. 

EveryLibrary Executive Director John Chrastka discusses ways to anticipate and answer highly politicized challenges with integrity to your mission and compassion for the community or students your library serves. 

Future Ready Librarians Webinar: Reconsideration Process - From Complaint to Conclusion

We’ve all heard about the recent attempts to remove books from school libraries. But what happens after a complaint is lodged? In this session, we’ll learn about both ends of the reconsideration process to understand how a school librarian and a board of education member respond to book challenges.  

During the webinar the panelists: 

  • Described a school librarian’s reaction and response to a book challenge; 
  • Explained the reconsideration process and red flags to look for; 
  • Explained the role school boards & school district policies play in book challenges; and 
  • Showed how to build robust school policies & procedures that will help combat challenges.

MI Right to Read on the podcast We Blame Our Shelves

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Nationwide Statistics

Statistics from the American Library Association

Statistics from PEN America

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