Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states:
A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
The "right to use a library" includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials and facilities the library has to offer. Some public libraries have procedures and practices that make it difficult to gain access to materials by putting them in special areas that will limit their use.
Any situation restricting access creates a barrier for patrons who may wish to use the materials. Barriers may be related to language or be psychological in nature. For example, traditionally some restricted materials have dealt with controversial or sensitive subjects. Patrons may be reluctant to ask for these materials because they may be intimidated or embarrassed. Another barrier for patrons can be language if a person has difficulty communicating with the library staff because of language skills.
There are some materials that need to be kept in separate areas in order to protect the materials - specifically for physical preservation which can include protection from theft and mutilation. This is usually done with materials that have lasting value and cannot be replaced if they are stolen or defaced. Older materials with historical value are often housed in separate collections also.
Children are often denied access to certain services and materials that are available to adults. Restrictions can take a variety of forms such as: library cards that limit circulation of some materials to adults only, collections for adults only, collections restricted according to a student's grade level, and interlibrary loan service for adults only.
Remember that materials appropriate to meeting the needs and interests of each library user must be determined on an individual basis. Librarians cannot predict what resources will satisfy the needs of any child based on a single fact such as age or school grade.
Libraries should not restrict access to collections and services for children in order to avoid controversy or objections from parents. Neither should staff in public libraries overrule the rights and responsibilities of parents. A public library's policies should state that only parents have the right and responsibility to restrict the access of their children (and only their own children) to library resources. (A school library may have more latitude in this area depending on the policies set forth by the school board.)
While good, clear policies and procedures won't keep challenges from occurring, they are essential to help you and your staff deal with them. The next section will discuss challenges to your library's collection and policies.
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