Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries
by Shannon M. Oltmann
August 2019, 193pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-6312-7
$60, £47, 53€, A83
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6313-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A solid introduction to and analysis of a core value of American librarianship.

All librarians and library and information science scholars can benefit from learning more about intellectual freedom. This book relies on research and practical real-world scenarios to conceptualize and contextualize it.

Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries is helpful for a wide range of people, from those only starting to learn about intellectual freedom to those more well-versed in the subject. For novices, it offers a solid introduction to intellectual freedom, grounded theoretically and empirically; for more experienced scholars and librarians, it provides a uniquely comprehensive analysis of intellectual freedom.

Intellectual freedom is important for librarians because it is a foundation of the profession and is truly central to librarianship in the United States. Situating intellectual freedom within freedom of speech theories, this book explains the legal and theoretical foundations for contemporary understandings of intellectual freedom within library science. Additionally, it depicts the importance of community to implementing intellectual freedom and exemplifies this importance in a discussion of actual library practices. Real-world scenarios provide a timely look at intellectual freedom in context, discussing Internet filtering, collection development and weeding, meeting rooms and exhibit spaces, programming, and fake news and misinformation.


  • Learn to apply intellectual freedom to your librarianship
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the legal and theoretical bases for intellectual freedom in the United States
  • Understand the theoretical and empirical foundations of intellectual freedom
  • Grasp how an institution’s community affects the interpretation and application of intellectual freedom
Shannon M. Oltmann is associate professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky. She obtained her PhD in information science from Indiana University-Bloomington. Her research interests include censorship, intellectual freedom, information policy, public libraries, privacy, and qualitative research methods. She has presented her research at many academic conferences, and her work has been published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Library Quarterly, Public Libraries Quarterly, Collection Management, Libri, and Library and Information Science Research.She is the editor of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy.


"Oltmann’s thoughtful work is an important resource for LIS students, librarians, and administrators alike."—Library Journal, January 1, 2020

"As a whole, this book is an extremely valuable contribution, taking issues that can easily seem abstractions and instead demonstrating the ways in which they are essential to the nature of all libraries."—The Library Quarterly, August 6, 2020

"Shannon Oltmann has produced an accessible introduction to the American Library Association’s guidance on the professional commitment to intellectual freedom as a foundational value in libraries. [Her book] is of value to practice and could be used for orienting library board members or library staff to the basic principles of intellectual freedom, which would be of benefit to a local community."—Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, August 25, 2020

"This holistic text considers the complexities of intellectual freedom in libraries and is a must for any collection."—American Libraries, December 1, 2021

"Oltmann, a long-time contributor to intellectual freedom literature (and current editor of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy) has written a clear, thoroughly accessible overview of the current free speech landscape. She offers a fresh critique of some First Amendment theories (can the excesses of social media qualify as "pursuit of the truth?"). She considers the MeToo movement in light of historic library positions. Her inclusion of copyright as a potential restriction of access is also timely and thoughtful. Recommended for all library collections."—James LaRue, CEO of LaRue & Associates, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom from 2016–2018

"Dr. Oltmann’s wonderful book provides a well-researched, thorough guide to understanding and practicing intellectual freedom in libraries. Readers are carefully led through the concepts and issues that shape contemporary support for intellectual freedom in librarianship. Instead of providing answers, Dr. Oltmann encourages readers to engage with some of the thorniest issues facing libraries today including the Me Too Movement, the provision of public space, and misinformation. By the end of the book, readers will know how to apply the principles of intellectual freedom to all of these issues. This is a much-needed practical guide to intellectual freedom and librarianship."—Emily Knox, Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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