Intellectual Freedom at the Library

We serve all people and all people are welcome in the Library. Our materials, resources and services are free and equally available to all people regardless of their origin, age, background or views. We do not censor or otherwise restrict access to information or ideas, information and ideas seen as controversial, objectionable or offensive.

We promote and protect freedom of thought, freedom of expression and the freedom to explore new information and ideas. We respect the right of all people to choose for themselves what to read, watch or listen to. We uphold the right of all people to exercise these freedoms within the Library as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

These intellectual freedoms are essential for a healthy democracy and fundamental to the mission of the Library. As a signatory to the Urban Library Council (ULC) Declaration of Democracy, we proudly join public libraries across North America in a shared commitment to protect and promote democracy in our community by upholding these freedoms.

Our Board of Trustees has adopted the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights as the Library’s official Intellectual Freedom Policy, which applies to every aspect of the public programs and services we provide.

Intellectual Freedom and the Library’s Collection

Our collection evolves over time as we add new materials and remove existing materials according to the guidelines of our Selection and Withdrawal of Materials Policy and Collections Plan. When deciding what materials to add to the collection or remove from the collection, we consider factors such as community interest, positive or negative reviews, timeliness, accuracy, historical significance, audience appropriateness, diversity of viewpoint and more.

Restricting public access to information and ideas is contrary to our professional values, as well as a violation of Library policy and the First Amendment. We do not and will not remove, relocate, label, stigmatize or censor books or other materials in our collection due to complaints about their content.

All patrons, regardless of age, have equal access to the books and materials in our collection. We are always ready to help parents and caregivers find engaging, age-appropriate books and other materials for their children.

Confidentiality of Patron Information

As part of our commitment to intellectual freedom, we protect patron privacy and keep information about them and their use of the Library confidential.

 Confidentiality extends to all records with identifying information about patrons, including their requests for materials and borrowing history, their use of Library computers and the online sites and resources they access. We will not disclose this information except as necessary for the proper operation of the Library, upon consent of the patron or as required by law.

 The Confidentiality of Patron Information Policy applies to all Library patrons, including minor patrons above the age of 13. The parents or legal guardians of children under the age of 13 may access their child’s borrowing record.

Public Use of the Internet

We provide patrons with free access to the internet through Library computers, wireless devices and Wi-Fi available at our locations. We protect the rights of all patrons to read, explore and express themselves freely on the internet within the limits of the law and our Public Use of the Internet Policy.

To protect the privacy of computer users and maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all patrons, Library computers have privacy screens and are arranged to help prevent the unintentional viewing of content viewed by other patrons, including potentially offensive online content.

Unfiltered access to the internet is available on most Library computers. Computers intended to be used by children, or for catalog access or job-seeking, filter some internet sites and content types. We never monitor what patrons view on Library computers or their own devices.

Public Use of Library Facilities and Meeting Rooms

In keeping with our intellectual freedom policy, we will not restrict access to Library spaces, including meeting rooms, based on the views of those who seek their use, nor restrict freedom of expression beyond the limits of U.S. law.

We recognize that some individuals and groups may strongly disagree with ideas and views expressed within Library spaces, and acknowledge that Library spaces may be used by those who express ideas and views that are contrary to our institutional values. The use of any Library facilities, including meeting rooms, by any group or organization in no way constitutes endorsement of the beliefs, policies or affiliations of that group or organization by the Library or the City of Seattle.

Library Programs and Partnerships

We provide a variety of public program options representing the diversity of perspectives and experiences within the community we serve. These programs are initiated and developed by the Library or in collaboration with our community partners. Although we welcome ideas and suggestions for future programs and opportunities to form new community partnerships, we prioritize programming and partnerships that reflect and advance our institutional values and equity goals. As stated by the American Library Association, the Library believes that “socially excluded, marginalized, and underrepresented people, not just the mainstream majority, should be able to see themselves reflected in the resources and programs that libraries offer.”