Reporting Censorship  | TOOLKIT |  MI RIGHT TO READ  |  Request Advocacy Resource Funds  |  Media  |  Donate

First Amendment Challenges and Intellectual Freedom Toolkit

Image of MLA's statement of Princple documentThe Michigan Library Association (MLA) is a champion of access and actively advocates and educates in defense of intellectual freedom – the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession and a basic right in our democratic society. 

Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas without restriction.  Viewed as an integral component of a democratic society, intellectual freedom protects an individual's right to access, explore, consider, and express ideas and information as the basis for a self-governing, well-informed citizenry. Intellectual freedom comprises the bedrock for freedoms of expression, speech, and the press and relates to freedoms of information and the right to privacy.

The United Nations upholds intellectual freedom as a basic human right through Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which asserts:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Read the Michigan Library Association Statement of Principle on Intellectual Freedom.

 

Reporting Censorship 

To respond on behalf of libraries and librarians in Michigan who are challenged in protecting the access to materials, MLA needs to know about such incidents. Any library employee, friends group member or trustee who knows of a complaint or challenge is encouraged to contact MLA’s Executive Director at [email protected] and report such incidents to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. You may also report these incidents anonymously. Download a pdf form here.

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MLA Intellectual Freedom Toolkit

Resources for library staff, educators, and board members can be found in the MLA Intellectual Freedom Toolkit.

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MI Right to Read

MI Right to Read is an initiative of the Michigan Library Association (MLA), coordinated through the leadership of the Intellectual Freedom Task Force. The coalition opposes any attempts to ban books from Michigan libraries based on content subjectively deemed inappropriate. Its purpose is to build a coalition, educate the public, oppose any current or future legislation that infringe upon First Amendment rights and intellectual freedom, and ensure that librarians across Michigan will be entrusted to continue to do their jobs and serve the needs of ALL individuals and communities. 

Visit MIRightToRead.com today and join the coalition!

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Request Advocacy Resource Funds

The Advocacy Resource Fund was created to educate and oppose any current or future legislation, regulations, or executive orders that infringe upon first amendment rights and intellectual freedom. Funds may be allocated or requested by MLA members to provide training for library board members and staff on strengthening collection development/diversity and inclusion/other internal policies.  Advocacy Resource Funds may also provide funding in response to challenges to intellectual freedom, support ongoing communications with legislators, and/or any activity that heightens public awareness of the value and importance of libraries.

View the Advocacy Resource Fund guidelines.

Request funds using this form.

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Media

Contact us for interviews, statistics, and more information.

A Guest Editorial from the MLA Intellectual Freedom Taskforce

View this letter as a PDF here.

Libraries fill a role in upholding rights that are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States and central to any functioning democracy: the rights of citizens to read, seek information, and speak freely. In the spirit of that role, we owe it to every community member to provide material of interest to them on our library shelves. 

Across our nation, at school and public library board meetings, we are witnessing an unprecedented uptick in the number of book challenges, most targeting works engaging with concepts of race and gender. Libraries recognize that parents or guardians have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what materials are suitable for their own families. And we also stand united in our belief that no one has the right to make rules restricting what other people read, or to make decisions for other families. 

The presence of any reading materials in a library collection does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed in those materials. The library is simply doing its job to provide a wide variety of views and expressions—if the library “endorses” anything, it is your right to access a broad selection of materials. 

As champions of access, the Michigan Library Association is proud of the hard work being performed by trained and certified librarians across Michigan. They are committed to curating collections that allow every person to see themselves in the books and resources their libraries provide, choosing a broad range of subject matter that reflect diverse experiences. This is a core tenant of librarianship and one that helps ensure America lives up to its constitutional promise to protect intellectual freedom.

Key findings from a March 2022 study conducted by Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research on behalf of the American Library Association found that large majorities of voters (71%) oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries, including a majority of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%). Most voters and parents hold librarians in high regard, have confidence in their local libraries to make good decisions about what books to include in their collections, and agree that libraries in their communities do a good job offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints.

In early May, MIRightToRead.com was launched to bring focus to the right to read for all Michiganders. We urge parents, students, teachers, librarians, and anyone who supports intellectual freedom to visit the website and join the growing coalition. 

Ryan Wieber
President, Michigan Library Association
Kalamazoo

Dillon Geshel
Intellectual Freedom Task Force Chair, Michigan Library Association
Marquette

Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director, Michigan Library Association
Lansing

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Donate

You can make an important contribution to support our work and the values we hold dear; uniting Michigan libraries, advocating for ALL libraries and advancing the library profession by supporting library staff in their careers through education and professional development opportunities.

The Advocacy Resource Fund was created to educate and oppose any current or future legislation, regulations, or executive orders that infringe upon first amendment rights and intellectual freedom. Funds may be allocated or requested by MLA members to provide training for library board members and staff on strengthening collection development/diversity and inclusion/other internal policies.  Advocacy Resource Funds may also provide funding in response to challenges to intellectual freedom, support ongoing communications with legislators, and/or any activity that heightens public awareness of the value and importance of libraries.

View the Advocacy Resource Fund guidelines.

Donate to the MLA Advocacy Resource Fund today to help protect the First Amendment rights of library users.

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MLA Intellectual Freedom Taskforce

Learn more about the Intellectual Freedom Taskforce.

Chair: Dillon Geshel
Director, Superiorland Library Cooperative

Vice Chair: Dennis Kreps
Director, Bridgman Public Library

Kate Andrade
Director, Woodlands Library Cooperative

Shirley Bruursema
Board Chair, Kent District Library

Kathleen Gallagher
Librarian, Grosse Pointe Public Library

Mary Grahame Hunter
Youth Services Librarian, Ferndale Area District Library

Alice Howard
Librarian and Programming Coordinator, Ecorse Public Library

Stephie Luyt
Elementary Library Coordinator, Traverse City Area Public Schools

Eric Magness-Eubank
Director, Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library

Juliane Morian
Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Kimberly Schaaf
Director, Oak Park Public Library

Kristin Shelley
Director, East Lansing Public Library

 


Uniting the Michigan Library Community

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