Intellectual Freedom Inventory: Back to School Edition

Academic Freedom, Censorship, Education, General Interest, Intellectual Freedom Issues

By: Kate Lechtenberg

Intellectual Freedom Inventory: Back to School Edition!

  • IdeaIt’s almost that time again, the most wonderful time of the year: back to school!  I must confess, I love going back to school in the fall.  I crave routine, I love the fresh start, and school supplies make me happy.
  • In honor of Back to School 2018, I’m taking the Intellectual Freedom News format and offering a few questions for reflection and resources for librarians and teachers.
  • We can all benefit from a quick-and-dirty IF checklist to jog our memories, refresh our toolkits, and recommit to upholding our patrons’ and students’ rights to read, access information, maintain privacy, and speak freely!
  • And just like the weekly IF News, there’s too much here to read all at once, so just pick a few areas that you need or want to explore and dive in!


  • Banning Books Silences Stories. Speak Out!
    Find the new line of Banned Books Week products on the ALA Store.

    Librarians: Do I know my selection and reconsideration policy? Have I scheduled a time to share this policy (as a reminder or a first-time conversation) with my stakeholders (administrators, parents, students, patrons, colleagues)? Have I reviewed ALA’s revised Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit and compared it to my own policies?

  • Teachers: Have I considered how I will respond if someone challenges a book on my syllabus? Do I know the policies that govern these challenges? Am I prepared with rationales for the books I include on my syllabus? Have I talked to my librarian for support and resources? Have I proactively planned for choice in the curriculum so that all students can find books that meet their needs and interests? Have I included a blurb about choice and alternate reading materials (consistent with my institution’s selection and reconsideration policies) in my course syllabus?
  • Everybody: What am I planning to do to observe Banned Books Week? How will I talk with my stakeholders about censorship before and after Banned Books Week?


  • Librarians: Have I taken steps to make sure my OPAC is not keeping library circulation records longer than necessary? Is it clearly posted in the library what information is private and what is not private when using library or school computers/hardware/software?
  • Teachers: Am I comfortable with the privacy agreements for the web and social media apps that I ask my students to use? Do I know what kinds of data Google Apps for Education is collection about my students? When can I build in a lesson about privacy this year?

Net Neutrality and Broadband Access


  • Everybody: Who is in charge of managing our filters? How do they make decisions about manually blocking websites in addition to the filtered content? What is the process if students or staff need access to content that is filtered?


  • Copyright PiratesLibrarians: Do we have copyright basics posted near copy machines or other relevant places? Do we have handouts available for patrons who have questions about copyright? Do we have materials to support understandings of fair use, providing attribution, and Creative Commons licensing?
  • Teachers: Do I teach my students how to search for images that are marked for noncommercial reuse? Do I include a note in my syllabus to explain to my students that course materials are for educational use only, and handouts, articles, and texts should not be posted online?

Libraries & Hate Speech

  • Everybody: If I find hate speech in my books or spaces, who will I reach out to for support?


  • Librarians: Are the library sections and signs purely directional and not intended to deny access?
  • Teachers: Can we rethink our permission slip practices for choice reading? When my assignments require students to use technology, do I have a plan to support students without home access?

Free Press, Social Media, and Fake News

Academic Freedom & Campus Speech

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Celebrate FreedomFirst Amendment and Free Speech

ALA News


Kate LechtenbergKate Lechtenberg is a doctoral student in Language, Literacy, and Culture in the University of Iowa’s College of Education. After working in public schools for fourteen years as a high school English teacher and school librarian, her doctoral research now focuses on text selection, multicultural literature, educational standards, and equity initiatives. Kate teaches a young adult literature course in the College of Education and a school librarian course on print and digital collection management in the School of Library and Information Science. She is also a member of the AASL Standards Implementation Task Force. Find her on Twitter @katelechtenberg.

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