May 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Launches New Policy Toolkit

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has created a new Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries. Now available online, it is technically an expansion and update of the previous selection and reconsideration policy resource but bears little resemblance to the earlier version in content or design.

One of the biggest changes is that the toolkit has broadened its target audience from addressing only school libraries to including academic and public libraries as well. Previously, the resource materials didn’t note its authors, but this toolkit lists the academic authors who wrote it and the librarians who offered their input and vetted the material.

The impetus for this new toolkit was a particularly frustrating conference call a couple of years ago between OIF assistant director Kristin Pekoll and two school librarians.

The librarians were enthusiastically trying to create a proper policy, Pekoll says, and they had called her when they could not finding the information they needed to get it done. As the three of them looked at the ALA webpage resource, which had not been updated since 1998, Pekoll found herself just as confused as the two librarians.

“It didn’t make sense to me,” she says. “That’s when I really felt like we needed to update this, really piece it out.”

The new toolkit took nearly two years to complete.

“It’s really been a labor of love,” says Pekoll.

The resource is broken into more than 20 different sections including a library’s mission, collection objective, how to handle controversial materials, collection maintenance and weeding, and process for reconsideration, as well as information on timing and politics of creating a policy, reliable review resources to help build a diverse collection, and proper policy revision.

The format of the toolkit itself is also very different. Previously just one webpage to search through to find the pertinent information, it is now broken up into separate pages for section and links for additional outside resources where applicable.

Creating a thorough policy is important for many different reasons, says Pekoll. Not only does it give librarians a system for putting their collection together, it documents a hierarchy and offers a definitive defense and plan when dealing with a challenge from a parent or library patron.

Without a policy, there are many questions without a clear answer, and whatever happens next can impact the future of challenges and attempts to change a collection. The actions of an individual librarian, administrator, or board member can set a poor precedent, according to Pekoll.

At the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February, five members of the working group who authored the toolkit will host a panel titled “The Front Lines of Intellectual Freedom – Protecting Your Pages with Policy. Anyone attending the panel will get a 50-page print version of the new resource.

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Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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  1. Thank you, Kara, for sharing these much needed updates!

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