Today we are pleased to commemorate the 75th anniversary of ALA’s adoption of the Library Bill of Rights on June 19, 1939 at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. The document – which is the basis for the work of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom – was created in the wake of several incidents of banning The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in the late 1930s. It also was inspired by the rising tide of totalitarianism around the world.
The first iteration of the Library Bill of Rights was a statement by the head of the Des Moines, Iowa, Public Library, Forrest Spaulding. It was adopted as policy by that library on November 21, 1938. Much of the wording remained the same for ALA’s version, although it was more universal.
Since its initial adoption, the Library Bill of Rights has been amended four times. There are also over 20 official interpretations on issues ranging from Meeting Rooms to Labeling and Ratings Systems. Many of these interpretations have Q&As associated with them to assist library boards and administrators adapt the policies to their specific circumstances.
To honor the Library Bill of Rights, take some time to read it and consider its meaning and relevance lo these many decades later.