Masks are required in the Library and on the Bookmobile following guidance from the Johnson County Public Health Department.

Library Bill of Rights

Forrest Spaulding Photograph
Forrest Spaulding Photograph

2017 marks the 100th anniversary Forrest Spaulding's first appointment as Director of the Des Moines Public Library. He is a pioneer in the Library world for his advocacy for human rights and belief that all people should have free and equal access to information. He is also remembered as a humanitarian and advocate for outreach service. He was named by American Libraries Magazine as one of the 100 most important library leaders of the 20th Century.

Spaulding is best known for writing the Library Bill of Rights (see text below). He started his career as a journalist and learned from time working in Peru about the dangers of censorship. Concerns about censorship increased in the United States in the late 1930's. Spaulding was pressured to censor items in the Des Moines Public Library collection. His response was a Library Bill of Rights presented to the DMPL Board of Trustees.

The Library Bill of Rights, adopted by the Des Moines Public Library Board of Trustees, was also adopted by the American Library Association on June 19, 1939. It has been amended a few times but the sentiment remains the same. Today it reads:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

Annually in September, libraries across the country join in celebrating Banned Book Week. This year the celebration starts on September 24th. The Iowa City Public Library has many programs planned for Banned Books Week as well as the annual Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival. A highlight of this year's program is a visit by NPR's Brooke Gladstone on Sunday September 24th at 2:00 PM at the Englert Theatre.

As I reflect on the Library Bill of Rights and what it means in our community, I am thankful for Forrest Spaulding and the many librarians who have been pioneers in the area of Intellectual Freedom. Their advocacy helps assure our public libraries continue to provide equal access to information and ideas.


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