Updating the Intellectual Freedom Manual

Intellectual Freedom Manual

The Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) has started the process for revising the 9th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual published in 2015.

Rationale for a New Edition

Why is a revision needed? Several events trigger the need for a new manual edition. First, OIF staff began to see trends and issues not included in the current edition or twists on some long-standing issues. For example, there have been instances where school administrators have requested that books on specific topics (suicide) be removed from or not selected for the collection (2018 OIF Report to Council). Second, there are recently created Library Bill of Rights interpretations and related guidance documents that need to be incorporated into an updated edition. One such document is the “Visual and Performing Arts: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” approved in February 2018 by the ALA Council. The same is true of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion interpretation completed in June 2017. Finally, as situations relating to access, privacy, and other intellectual freedom issues occur, the terminology, content, and citations of some existing documents need to be updated.

What’s Involved in the Update?

  • Editors: When the Office for Intellectual Freedom determines that a new edition is required, one of the first tasks is to find editors to guide the publishing process. For the 10th edition, Martin Garnar, Dean of the Kraemer Family Library at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, will be the editor. Martin has outstanding credentials both for the subject as well as for publishing. He was the assistant editor for the 9th edition of the manual, ensuring continuity of the philosophy of the 10th edition. Martin has served as chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and is currently the president of the Freedom to Read Foundation and the ALA Councilor for the Intellectual Freedom Round Table. Trina Magi, an academic librarian at the University of Vermont and the editor of the 9th edition of the manual, will be Martin’s assistant editor.
  • Review of all current documents: A small group of IFC members, volunteers, and OIF staff are currently reviewing and rating every ALA intellectual freedom-related document to determine whether no revision is needed, light revision is needed, or major revision is needed. This includes reading all library foundational documents such as “Libraries: An American Value,” every Library Bill of Rights interpretation (currently 30 and counting), and all related documents such as “Questions and Answers on Privacy and Confidentiality.” It’s a big job, but that is just the beginning. Policy statements judged to be in need of some level of revision will be forwarded to an IFC working group that will revise it. After discussion among all IFC members, the revised documents will be sent to the wider library community for comment, and revision again.
  • ALA Council Approval:  Most intellectual freedom policy statements were approved by the ALA Council; therefore, every revised document must again be presented at ALA Council Forums during ALA Annual Conference or Midwinter for approval.

How Will the 10th Edition Be Different?

The 9th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual was a radical departure from its predecessors. Instead of lengthy essays incorporating much of the history of ALA’s advocacy for intellectual freedom, the manual is arranged in a topical format. To refresh your memory about the current (9th edition), reread my July 2015 blog “10 Reasons to Check Out the Intellectual Freedom Manual.”

The current Intellectual Freedom Manual had a substantial format revision, but the same is not true for the next edition. According to manual editor Martin Garnar, “The 10th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual will use the same format as the 9th edition, as we believe the change to an issues-oriented organization made the manual much more useful for practitioners, while those interested in the history of these policy documents will continue to have access to all the information they need in the historical supplement (A History of ALA Policy on Intellectual Freedom: A Supplement to the Intellectual Freedom Manual, 9th edition). The main purpose of this revision is to incorporate the new policy statements that have been adopted since the last edition so that practitioners will have the most current versions at their fingertips. Our goal is to release the 10th edition by Midwinter 2020” (Garnar).

Final Thoughts

There is an enormous amount of effort that goes into creating a new edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual. When you consult your copy, remember the school, public, and academic librarians who have worked for many hours to ensure that intellectual freedom guidance and resources are at your fingertips.


American Library Association. Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Trends and IFC Responses.” “ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Report to Council, 2018 ALA Midwinter, Denver, Colorado, Tuesday, February 13, 2018.” http://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/cd_19_19… (accessed March 17, 2018).

Garnar, Martin. Email to author, March 13, 2018.

Magi, Trina and Martin Garnar, editors. The Intellectual Freedom Manual. Chicago: American Library Association, 2015.


American Library Association. Office of Intellectual Freedom.  Intellectual Freedom Manual Blog Image. Used with permission from the Office for Intellectual Freedom.


Author: Helen Adams

A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013) and contributor to The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, 2017). Email: hadams1@centurytel.net.

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