In the light of regular reports of limitations on libraries’ ability freely to build and maintain collections to respond to the needs of communities, IFLA President Barbara Lison has made the following statement

With the rise of efforts by individuals and politicians (both democratically elected and otherwise) to use removals or bans of books to impose their own vision of the world on others, it is vital for the library profession to realise its mission to be champions of intellectual freedom.

Indeed, at the heart of IFLA’s Position on Intellectual Freedom is the conviction that ‘the selection and availability of library materials and services is governed by professional considerations and not by political, moral and religious views’.

This is essential if libraries are to be able to pursue their mission to be gateways to knowledge, rather than gatekeepers, supporting the intellectual freedom which is vital for both individual and societal development, innovation creativity, and the realisation of human rights.

In the light of this, it is clear that IFLA condemns efforts by government and non-governmental actors alike to remove books from library collections, or prevent their acquisition.

Librarians themselves must lead – and be empowered to lead – in determining how to build collections that respond to the needs of communities as a whole. They need to maintain their focus on ensuring that everyone can find themselves in a library, and not just those who shout loudest, or enjoy greatest political power. Where this isn’t the case, libraries are not realising their full potential to be the forces for progress and equity that they are supposed to be.

This situation is particularly alarming in the case of school libraries, given the vital role that libraries play in building skills and broadening experiences, as well as the long-lasting impacts of their work on the children who benefit from their work. However, it is highly relevant for all libraries.

Going forward, and in line with IFLA’s values, we urge institutions and associations to act to uphold intellectual freedom. In parallel, citizens deserve and need the guarantee from governments that librarians can do their jobs, for the sake of the communities they serve.

Barbara Lison

IFLA President 2021-23

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IFLA Statement on Censorship

On the 20th anniversary of IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom, IFLA published a new statement in 2019, offering further guidance and support to members facing censorship challenges. This offers more guidance – and a reference point – for libraries looking to ensure that the...

IFLA Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom

Statement prepared by IFLA/FAIFE and approved by The IFLA Executive Board on 25 March 1999, The Hague,