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Intellectual Freedom at Boone County Public Library

In recent weeks, groups in TexasVirginiaSouth Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky have worked to remove dozens of books from public library and public school shelves.

Adding and removing materials from our collection is guided by Boone County Public Library’s Collection Development Policy, which states:

The library collection is accessible to all residents of Boone County. Responsibility for monitoring the use of the library’s collection by minors rests with their individual parents and legal guardians. Selection of adult materials will not be limited by the possibility that items may come into the possession of minors. Parents or guardians who wish to limit a child’s access to certain materials should accompany or otherwise advise their child. 

The scope of the collection refers to the range and types of materials selected including the formats offered and the level of difficulty. The scope is as broad as possible to allow for the maximum possibility of free expression and free access to ideas. The library collection focuses on the general patron rather than the researcher, taking into account that individuals vary greatly in education, personal interest and reading skill. Boone County Public Library does not promote particular beliefs or views. Selection of an item does not express or imply endorsement of the viewpoint of the author, but is an expression of the library’s adherence to the principles of intellectual freedom. The library strives to provide a balanced view on important, complex, and controversial subjects by selecting resources portraying all sides of an issue, including unpopular and unorthodox viewpoints. Language, situations, or subjects that may be offensive to some community members do not disqualify material whose value is to be judged in its entirety.


A person’s right to read and right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.  Similarly, books should not be excluded or eliminated from shelves based on the origin, background, or views of their authors or characters.  A well-read and informed population is vital to a free and balanced exchange of ideas among its members — an ability critical to the continued success of our community.


The United States Supreme court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in UNITED STATES et al. v. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, INC., et al. [2003].  In order to do this, the Supreme Court needed to define public libraries and their roles in the communities they serve:

  • To fulfill their traditional missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment, public libraries must have broad discretion to decide what material to provide to their patrons.
  • A library provides resources: to facilitate research, learning, and recreational pursuits by furnishing materials of requisite and appropriate quality.
  • Strict scrutiny is not warranted, for such a limiting and rigid test would unreasonably interfere with the discretion inherent in the selection of a library’s collection.
  • Public libraries pursue the worthy missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment. ALA’s Library Bill of Rights states that libraries should provide “[b]ooks and other … resources … for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.” To fulfill their traditional missions, public libraries must have broad discretion to decide what material to provide to their patrons. Although they seek to provide a wide array of information, their goal has never been to provide “universal coverage.” Instead, public libraries seek to provide materials “that would be of the greatest direct benefit or interest to the community.” To this end, libraries collect only those materials deemed to have “requisite and appropriate quality.” 

Research has shown that access to books, particularly books concerning marginalized communities, is important.  People need to not only see themselves and feel less alone, people also gain perspective on those whose lives are nothing like their own.  The wave of challenges facing public libraries and schools in the United States target books with characters who are LGBTQ+, persons of color, and/or religions other than Christianity.  If you look at Boone County, demographics show that:

  • 3.4% of Boone County self-identify as LGTBQ+ (approximately 4,556 people)**; 
  • 13.2% of Boone County is identified as a person of color (approximately 17,688 people)***; and
  • 2% of Boone County is a religion other than Christian (approximately 2,680 people)***.   

Essentially these challenges are telling people that they are not welcome in that community if they are LGBTQ+, a person of color, or a member of a religion other than Christianity and that is not something we should support.  Boone County Public Library welcomes all people. 


** MAP Kentucky’s Equality Profile

*** US Census Bureau

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