Public Library Collections in the Balance
Censorship, Inclusivity, and Truth
by Jennifer Downey
July 2017, 203pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-4964-0
$60, £47, 53€, A83
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4965-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

From patron privacy to filtering of public computers to unintended self-censorship, this book guides you through the minefield of censorship and intellectual freedom issues in public libraries.

A fascinating and informative read for librarians, library staff, and MLIS students, this book offers practical information and professional guidelines to examine current issues in censorship and libraries while also enabling readers to consider their own opinions about intellectual freedom.

This book addresses contemporary issues in censorship and intellectual freedom and can serve as an invaluable resource for librarians and other library staff and as an eye-opening read for MLIS students. It covers the waterfront of intricate and thorny issues regarding intellectual freedom, including determining strategies for patron privacy, deciding how to filter public computers, handling challenges to items in a collection, and recognizing and eliminating under-the-radar self-censorship during collection development and weeding. Readers will also gain an understanding of the perils of over-reliance on community assessments and other evaluative tools and consider important concerns of public library employees, such as whether to restrict borrowing privileges of R-rated movies and M-rated video games to patrons of various ages, and the legalities that surround these questions.

Each chapter blends instructive background narrative with practical advice, research findings, and relevant information about librarianship’s professional guidelines, including the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement. Vignettes, “what would you do?” examples, effective nonconfrontational techniques for conflict resolution, and lists of tips and traps help readers to think critically about their own biases and rehearse possible responses to controversial situations. Librarians, library staff, and MLIS students can use this book for personal professional development, as supplemental reading for MLIS courses or professional training workshops, or as a resource for library policy-planning discussions.


  • Helps librarians and students better understand the intellectual freedom issues and controversies most common to public libraries and put them into the context of real-world situations
  • Challenges readers to examine their professional and personal feelings on controversial topics fairly and thoughtfully, with the intent of evolving the library profession
  • Offers a big-picture approach covering the many facets of censorship (including the seldom-discussed issue of self-censorship) and presents information on alternative review sources and publishers in order to develop well-balanced collections
  • Serves as a continuing education source on a rarely discussed but often-encountered topic
Jennifer Downey, MLIS, is reference librarian at Rancho Cucamonga Public Library. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University as well as a Master of Science in counseling from Canisius College. Prior to her library career, she spent 10 years as a social worker, providing services to at-risk children and families. Downey is the winner of the 2005 Progressive Librarians Guild's Miriam Braverman prize and has been awarded several grants, allowing her to enhance public library services to underrepresented groups.


"Essential reading for library students, librarians, and library administrators."—Library Journal, December 1, 2017

"Downey reviews the types of materials that are challenged, either for content or format; issues surrounding internet access; and tips on how to respond to complaints. Also useful are discussions on the importance of understanding one’s community, overcoming personal biases in selection, and balancing demand for popular and quality material."—American Libraries, March 1, 2018
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