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Freedom to Read Statement

The Southeast Florida Library Information Network (SEFLIN) upholds the Freedom to Read of all our citizens. The freedom to choose what we read from the fullest array of possibilities, whether in a school or public library, is firmly rooted in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. SEFLIN is committed to defending these rights for all library patrons. We strongly condemn any form of censorship or removal of books or materials from libraries without following established processes.

South Florida librarians are trained in selecting materials to meet the informational and cultural needs of a broad and diverse community; the selection of materials for libraries is guided in part by principles from the American Library Association and American Association of School Librarians. When a parent or patron requests that a book, video, or other material in a public library be reviewed for content or appropriateness for a specific audience, libraries follow established policies for reviewing the challenged material. For school libraries, districts offer reconsideration policies and procedures for stakeholders wishing to request review of specific materials. These procedures should be followed each and every time a request is made to remove a book or library resource; statements from elected officials should never replace or supersede these policies and procedures.

Libraries serve all citizens and operate with the objective of offering high quality materials in order to develop, implement and direct a library that supports the community’s academic and recreational needs by providing a professionally selected, up-to-date, and diverse collection of media/technology resources for different levels of maturity, ability, and interest. We recognize that not every book is right for every reader. Parents have the right—and the responsibility—to guide their own children’s reading; that right, however, does not extend to other people’s children.

The Supreme Court has affirmed this position through several cases, including the 1982 Island Trees School District v. Pico case. Justice Brennan wrote for the majority opinion: “Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in the book and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”

The First Amendment does not allow the government to remove or limit the use of books or ideas because they are controversial, unpopular, or offensive. When we speak up to protect the right to read, we not only defend individuals’ right to free expression, we demonstrate tolerance and respect for opposing points of view and take action to preserve a democratic society. SEFLIN stands in full support of our members and our colleagues and affirms their professional expertise in selecting materials.

Further Reading

Passed Unanimously by the SEFLIN Board of Trustees, February 17, 2022