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Nebraska Intellectual Freedom

Prepared by the
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Nebraska Library Association
and the
Nebraska Library Commission
Revised Summer 2004

Order of Topics



Records Which May Be Withheld

Developing a Mission Statement

Developing a Materials Selection Policy

Dealing With a Reconsideration Request

Request for Reconsideration

Handling a Complaint

Library Bill of Rights

Freedom to Read

Freedom to View

Access to Electronic Information



As librarians, we are all concerned with the concept of intellectual freedom. It is our professional obligation to provide varied forms of information that meet the varied interests and needs of our community members.  It is also our professional obligation to oppose the efforts of those who would attempt to monitor, challenge, change, or remove the materials of choice in our society. 

 This handbook provides access to relative resources for all librarians who may face a censorship challenge.  Included are interpretations from the Library Bill of Rights, policies and procedures, examples of useful forms, and a list of library related organizations that may be contacted for further information.

Checklist for Managing Censorship

Consider the following points when deciding how well prepared you are to handle a challenge of intellectual freedom in you library

________Are you familiar with Nebraska state laws, the Library Bill of Rights and other documents regarding intellectual freedom

________Do you have a written collection development policy? Has it been formally adopted by your governing authority? Is it revised and updated periodically?

________Do you have written procedures for handling complaints and for reporting incidents?

________Are all personnel in your library aware of the contents of your materials selection policy and of your procedure for handling complaints and reporting incidents?

________Are you openly communicating with community groups and their leaders in the area served by your library?

________Do you have a vigorous public relations program?

________Are you aware of groups in your community who are advocates of intellectual freedom and who might have resources they would use in your support?

________Are you aware of state and national organizations, such as Nebraska Library Association (NLA) and American Library Association (ALA), which are advocates of intellectual freedom?

________Do you know who to call in case of a challenge?

Records Which May Be Withheld From The Public

Certain information can legally be withheld from the public. Withholding this information cannot be considered censorship but is a means of protecting confidentiality and security. The Revised Statutes of Nebraska 1943 (84-712.05) enumerates the kinds of information that may be withheld. 

The following records, unless publicly disclosed in an open court, open administrative proceeding, or open meeting or disclosed by a public entity pursuant to its

duties, may be withheld from the public by the  lawful  custodian of the records:         

    (1)   Personal   information  in  records  regarding  a student,  prospective  student,  or   former   student   of   any educational  institution or exempt school that has effectuated an election not to meet state approval or accreditation requirements

pursuant to section 79-1601 when such records are  maintained  by and  in  the  possession  of  a public entity, other than routine directory information specified and made public  consistent  with 20 U.S.C. 1232g, as such section existed on January 1, 2003;         

    (2)  Medical  records, other than records of births and deaths and except as provided in subdivision (5) of this section, in any form concerning any person, and also records of  elections filed under section 44-2821;         

    (3)  Trade  secrets,  academic  and scientific research work which is in progress and unpublished, and other  proprietary or  commercial information which if released would give advantage to business competitors and serve no public purpose;         

    (4) Records which represent  the  work  product  of  an attorney  and  the  public  body  involved  which  are related to preparation for litigation, labor negotiations, or claims made by or  against  the  public   body   or   which   are   confidential communications as defined in section 27-503;         

    (5)  Records  developed  or received by law enforcement agencies  and  other  public  bodies  charged  with   duties   of investigation   or   examination  of  persons,  institutions,  or businesses,  when  the  records  constitute a part   of   the examination,  investigation,  intelligence  information,  citizen complaints or inquiries, informant identification,  or  strategic or  tactical information used in law enforcement training, except that this subdivision shall not apply to records so developed  or received  relating to the presence of and amount or concentration of alcohol or drugs in any body fluid of any person;         

    (6) Appraisals or appraisal information and negotiation records concerning the purchase or sale, by a public body, of any interest in real or personal property, prior to completion of the purchase or sale;

     (7) Personal information in records regarding personnel of public  bodies  other  than  salaries  and  routine  directory information; 

    (8)  Information solely pertaining to protection of the security of public property  and  persons  on  or  within  public property,  such  as specific, unique vulnerability assessments or specific, unique response plans, either of which is  intended  to

prevent  or mitigate criminal acts the public disclosure of which would create  a  substantial  likelihood  of  endangering  public safety  or  property;  computer or communications network schema, passwords, and user identification  names;  guard  schedules;  or lock combinations;         

    (9)   The  security  standards,  procedures,  policies, plans,  specifications,  diagrams,  access   lists,   and   other security-related   records   of   the  Lottery  Division  of  the Department of Revenue and those persons or  entities  with  which the division has entered into contractual relationships.  Nothing in this subdivision shall allow the division to withhold from the public  any  information  relating  to  amounts  paid  persons or entities with which the division  has  entered  into  contractual relationships,  amounts  of  prizes  paid,  the name of the prize winner, and the city, village, or county where the  prize  winner resides;         

    (10)  With  respect  to  public utilities and except as provided in sections 43-512.06 and 70-101, personally  identified private  citizen  account payment information, credit information on others supplied in confidence, and customer lists;

    (11) Records or portions of records kept by a  publicly funded  library  which,  when  examined  with  or  without  other records, reveal the identity of  any  library  patron  using  the library's materials or services;

    (12)   Correspondence,   memoranda,   and   records  of telephone calls related to the performance of duties by a  member of the Legislature in whatever form.  The lawful custodian of the correspondence,  memoranda,  and records of telephone calls, upon approval of the Executive Board of the Legislative Council, shall release the correspondence, memoranda, and records  of  telephone calls which  are  not designated as sensitive or confidential in nature to any person performing an audit of the Legislature.    A member's  correspondence,  memoranda, and records of confidential telephone  calls  related  to  the  performance  of  his  or  her legislative  duties  shall  only  be released to any other person with the explicit approval of the member; 

    (13) Records or portions  of  records  kept  by  public bodies  which  would reveal the location, character, or ownership of any known archaeological, historical, or paleontological  site in  Nebraska when necessary to protect the site from a reasonably held fear of theft, vandalism, or trespass.   This section  shall not  apply  to  the  release  of  information  for the purpose of scholarly research, examination by other public  bodies  for  the protection  of the resource or by recognized tribes, the Unmarked Human Burial Sites and Skeletal Remains Protection  Act,  or  the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act;

    (14)  Records  or  portions  of  records kept by public bodies which maintain collections of archaeological,  historical, or  paleontological  significance  which  reveal  the  names  and addresses  of  donors  of  such   articles   of   archaeological, historical,  or  paleontological  significance  unless  the donor approves disclosure, except as the records  or  portions  thereof may  be  needed  to  carry out the purposes of the Unmarked Human Burial Sites and Skeletal Remains Protection Act or  the  federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act;

    (15) Job application materials submitted by applicants, other  than  finalists,  who  have  applied for employment by any public body as defined in section 84-1409.  For purposes of  this subdivision,   job   application   materials   means   employment applications, resumes, reference letters, and school transcripts, and  finalist  means any applicant who is offered and who accepts an interview by a public body or its agents, representatives,  or consultants for any public employment position; and

    (16) Social security numbers; credit card, charge card, or debit card numbers and expiration dates; and financial account numbers supplied to state and local governments by citizens. 


Laws 1979, LB 86, § 5; Laws 1983, LB 108, § 1; Laws 1983, LB 565, § 1;

Laws 1993, LB 579, § 6; Laws 1993, LB 590, § 6; Laws 1993, LB 719, § 2;

Laws 1994, LB 1061, § 7; Laws 1994, LB 1224, §; 88;

Laws 1995, LB 343, § 7; Laws 1995, LB 509, § 6; Laws 1999, LB 137, § 1;

Laws 2002, LB 276, § 7; Laws 2004, LB 236, § 1;

Laws 2004, LB 868, § 3.

Effective date July 16, 2004.

Developing a Mission Statement 

In order to develop a sound and useful Materials Selection Policy, a library must consider its mission statement. The library's overall mission should guide library resource selection.  A written, formal mission statement is a brief declaration of the overall purpose of the organization.  It should be clear, concise, and memorable.  In a single sentence or two, this statement summarizes the values of an organization and provides direction for every service, program, event, or activity in which the library engages.  Goals and objectives, whether short-term or long-term, are drawn from the mission statement; it justifies all that a library does or plans to do.   

A mission statement: 

  • Is a broad, philosophical declaration of a library's purpose
  • Should provide the framework for a library's goals and objectives
  • Should be written with input from library staff, Library Board members, library users, community members
  • Should promote and defend principles of intellectual freedom
  • Should be brief and memorable
  • Should define services for all users
  • Should be reviewed regularly to ensure its continuing relevancy

Once written and adopted, the mission statement must be communicated to all staff members.  Everyone - Library Director, Librarians, Clerks, Volunteers, Part-time staff, Delivery drivers - should know the mission statement and support it in their responsibilities as library staff.  In addition, all staff should also be trained in the basic principles of intellectual freedom. The mission statement should also be regularly communicated in library brochures, calendars, pamphlets, and marketing pieces.  

Numerous well-written examples of library mission statements are available on the Internet for review. 

Developing A Materials Selection Policy

A written, formal materials selection policy is an essential document for all libraries.  It should be drawn from the library's mission statement, and it should be adopted officially by the governing board of the library and communicated to the library staff and the library community.  Once adopted, the policy should be reviewed periodically and revised as necessary.  

A materials selection policy (or collection development policy) defines the scope, range, and focus of a library's collections and clearly sets out principles and expectations for collection evaluation and maintenance, procedures for materials selection, and methodology for handling both suggestions and complaints.  It should be a published document that is available for distribution to library staff as well as to interested library users. 

Essential elements include: 

  • Inclusion of the library's Mission Statement, which defines a library's purpose
  • A clear summary of the dimensions and limits of collections
    • For example:  does your collection include popular materials?  Adult, young adult, children's materials?  All formats?  Textbooks, etc.?
  • A list of a library's special collections
    • For example:  genealogy, local history, government documents
  • A clearly defined philosophy used in the selection and evaluation of materials
  • A list of criteria used for selection and evaluation of materials
    • For example:  use of review journals, best-seller lists, customer requests; criteria such as accuracy, literary merit, reading level, author reputation, award winners, etc.
  • A clearly defined procedure for dealing with suggestions for purchase from library users
    • For example:  a written or on-line form through which a request could be submitted
  • A clearly defined procedure for dealing with complaints about specific titles
    • For example:  a written re-evaluation form for considering complaints
  • A policy for accepting and disposing of gift materials
    • For example:  a clear statement defining use of donated materials and disposal of unwanted gift items
  • Clear principles for collection evaluation and maintenance
    • For example:  regular schedules for weeding and replacement of worn or out-of-date materials
  • A plan for periodic review and revision
    • For example:  updates that recognize changing community needs and additions of new formats of library materials, such as DVDs, e-books, etc.

A thoroughly written Materials Selection Policy could also include an appendix that contains the following documents that support the mission of collection development and the principles of intellectual freedom: 

  1. The Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, adopted and amended 1948, 1961, 1967, 1980).
  2. The Intellectual Freedom State: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, Freedom to Read Foundation, adopted 1971).
  3. The Statement of Labeling: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, adopted 1951, amended 1971, 1981).
  4.  Your Library's materials complaint/recommendation form
Numerous examples of well-written Materials Selection policies are available on the Internet for review. 

Dealing With a Reconsideration Requests

  1.  What is the general content of this material?
  2. How is the content presented in terms of scope, range, depth and continuity?
  3. What new information, dimension or direction does this material provide? 
  4. How well documented are the information sources?
  5. How up-to-date is the material?
  6. What is the overall purpose of the material?
  7. How is the purpose accomplished?
  8. How well do the illustrations apply to the subject and age level?
  9. What selection aides have reviewed this material? Attach reviews if possible.
  10. What is the reputation and significance of the author and/or producer?
  11. How well are the goals and objectives of the library materials selection policy reflected in this material?


Request for Reconsideration of Library Resources

______________________________________has delegated the responsibility for selection and evaluation
of library/educational resources to ____________________

___________________and has established reconsideration procedures to address concerns about those resources. Completion of this form is the first step in those procedures. If you wish to request reconsideration of library resources, please return the completed form to _________________________________________________.

Name____________________________________________ Date_______________


City_____________________ State_______ Zip Code ________Phone___________

Do you represent yourself? _________ your organization?____________________

1. Resource on which you are commenting:

____Book ____Textbook ____Video ____Display

____Magazine ____Library Program ____Audio Recording

____Newspaper ____Electronic Information/Website




2. What brought this resource to your attention?___________________________


3. Have you examined the entire resource?________________________________

4. What concerns you about the resource? (Use other side or additional pages if  necessary.)

5. Are there resource(s) you suggest to provide additional information and/or

other viewpoints on this topic?________________________________________


Revised by the American Library Association

Intellectual Freedom Committee

June 27, 1995

Handling the Complaint/Challenge

Listed below are steps for handling a complaint about materials in the library or other challenges to intellectual freedom.

  1. Stay calm, cool and collected. Be reasonable and rational at all times. Do not demean the individual who is making the complaint. DO NOT ARGUE.
  2. Provide the individual with the appropriate policy on materials, exhibit or meeting rooms.  
  3. If the individual is not satisfied, provide a "Request for Reconsideration of Materials" form. Ask the individual to fill it out completely and explain the rest of your library's procedure for handling a complaint.
  4. Inform the administration of the full facts regarding the incident.
  5. Contact the American Library Association (ALA).
  6. Contact local media and civic organizations when appropriate, i.e. when the situation escalates beyond the scope of the library.


Adopted June 18, 1948
Amended February 2, 1961, June 27, 1967 and January 23, 1980,
by the ALA Council
Affirmed as NEBRASKA LIBRARY BILL OR RIGHTS April 3, 1981 by unanimous adoption of the Nebraska Library Commission.  

American Library Association

The Freedom to Read

This statement was originally issued in May of 1953
by the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association
and the American Book Publishers Council, which in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute
to become the Association of American Publishers. 

Adopted June 25, 1953; revised January 28, 1972, January 16, 1991, July 12, 2000, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee.

Freedom to View

This statement was originally drafted by the Freedom to View Committee of the American Film and Video Association (formerly the Educational Film Library Association) and was adopted by the AFVA Board of Directors in February 1979.
This statement was updated and approved by the AFVA Board of Directors in 1989.

Endorsed by the ALA Council January 10, 1990.

Access to Electronic Information

Adopted by the ALA Council, January 24, 1996.

Guide to the U.S.A. Patriot Act

Including the American Library Association's Resolution on the USA Patriot Act
and Related Measures That Infringe on the Rights of Library Users

Adopted by the ALA Council, January 29, 2003

Other U.S.A. Patriot Act Resources


You are encouraged to contact any of the following if you are confronted with a challenge: 

American Library Association
Office of Intellectual Freedom
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Southeast Library System
5730 R Street Suite C1
Lincoln, NE 68505
PH: 402-467-6188 or
FAX: 402-467-6196

Eastern Library System
11929 Elm Street, Suite 12
Omaha, NE 68144
PH: 402-330-7884
or 800-627-7884
FAX: 402-330-1859

Meridian Library System
3519 Second Ave, Suite B
Kearney, NE 68847
PH: 308-234-2087
or 800-657-2192
FAX: 308-234-4040 

Northeast Library System
3038 33rd Ave, Suite 13
Columbus, NE 68601
PH: 402-564-1586
or 800-578-1014
FAX: 402-564-7977

Panhandle Library System
1517 Broadway, Suite 129
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
PH: 308-632-1350
or 800-569-4961
FAX: 308-632-3978 

Republican Valley Library System
2727 West 2nd Street, Suite 233
Hastings, NE 68901
PH: 402-462-1975
or 800-569-4961
FAX: 402-462-1974 

Nebraska Library Commission
1200 N Street, Suite 120
Lincoln, NE 68508
PH: 402-417-2045
or 800-307-2665 

The Nebraska Library Association Home Page  

Contact information for other state Intellectual Freedom Committees can be located on the American Library Association's web site at: State IFC Roster