ALA Responds to Citrus County New York Times Block

November 5, 2019

Screenshot from the October 24 Citrus County (Fla.) Board of Commissioners meeting
Screenshot from the October 24 Citrus County (Fla.) Board of Commissioners meeting

On November 5, the American Library Association (ALA) issued a statement in response to the decision by the Citrus County (Fla.) Board of Commissioners to not allow Citrus County Library System to buy a digital subscription to the New York Times after one commissioner labeled the newspaper “fake news.” The ALA statement reads:

“The core mission of public libraries is to provide access to a wide range of information and ideas that enable each person to become an informed and active member of society. To this end, public libraries create opportunities for each member of the community to learn about current events, ideas, and opinions via a diverse set of perspectives so that members of the community have the opportunity to make informed decisions for themselves. Both the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and the ALA Code of Ethics encourage libraries and librarians to ensure that the criteria used to select materials do not discriminate on the basis of factors such as political or religious viewpoint or the background, identity, gender, or beliefs of the publisher or author. As the Code of Ethics states, ‘we distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.’

“Public libraries are government agencies subject to the First Amendment. Rejecting or censoring a publication based upon its political viewpoint represents both content and viewpoint discrimination that is contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment’s promise of freedom of speech and freedom of belief. Our constitution and Bill of Rights promises every person the right and equal opportunity to discover, develop, and defend her own political, social, and religious beliefs. A government official’s decision to prevent access to a particular publication based on partisan disapproval of that publication denies this right. We stand by our Freedom to Read Statement: We believe that democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative.

“While ALA offers the Library Bill of Rights, the ALA Code of Ethics, and the Freedom to Read Statement as guidelines for local libraries’ policies and practices, ALA does not control, govern, or dictate local library policy or decisions concerning the acquisition of materials and resources by local libraries. Public libraries adopt these statements of core professional values into their own policy manuals to serve as a framework for providing high-quality information services to the community as a whole and to affirm and strengthen their commitment to the First Amendment freedoms and democratic values that underlie public library service. ALA offers guidance and consultation to librarians and administrators when making collection development and reconsideration decisions that could affect access to information or the quality of information services provided to the library’s community.”


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