Information policy dictates the privileges and duties pertaining to the use, preservation, and distribution of information. The library serves as an important information pipeline. As such, it will need to carefully uphold the standards and policies which support its mission.
A clearly articulated information policy will enable the library to both serve its patrons in the best possible manner and answer challenges that arise regarding information access or use. Internet access, for example, is a particularly sensitive topic. However, an information policy enables the library to manage rights and user expectations. The West Virginia University Libraries created a policy outlining “the rights and responsibilities of consumers of electronic information in the West Virginia University Libraries” (Electronic Information Policy for Library Users, 2001). Visit http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/policies/electronic.pdf to review the document in its entirety. Information policy enables the library to offer services while respecting the interests and concerns of all involved.
Information policy involves both patron privileges and patron duties. Patrons have privileges under such documents as the Bill of Rights, the Library Bill of Rights, et al, to freely access and express information. However, patrons also have the duty to observe library policies and state and federal laws (including copyright laws). The library can effectively fulfill its mission through the guidance of information policy.
ALA Statements on Information Policy
The American Library Association offers numerous statements and policies which address the vast scope of information policy. Librarians and patrons alike can access ALA’s resources on fair and equitable information access and management.
The statement on Intellectual Freedom says, “ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society. It is a core value of the library profession” (Intellectual Freedom, 2009).
The Library Bill of Rights is a crucial document for information policy. It outlines six key rights of every library user (Library Bill of Rights, 2009). View the statement here: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/statementsif/lbor.pdf
The statement on Equity of Access guarantees every person the right to obtain information: “Equity of access means that all people have the information they need-regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers. It means they are able to obtain information in a variety of formats-electronic, as well as print. It also means they are free to exercise their right to know without fear of censorship or reprisal” (Equity of Access, 2009).
The seventh edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual states: “"Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate, and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of work, and the viewpoints of both the author and the receiver of information." (Intellectual Freedom, 2009)
The ALA Policy Manual states in section 50.3 Free Access to Information, “The American Library Association asserts that the charging of fees and levies for information services, including those services utilizing the latest information technology, is discriminatory in publicly supported institutions providing library and information services” (The ALA Policy Manual, 2009).
Questions to Ponder
What is the library’s policy on computer (or wireless internet) access?
What is the library’s policy on serving patrons with special needs?
How are patrons equipped to access, evaluate, and utilize information?
What is the library’s policy on information literacy?
Electronic Information Policy for Library Users. (2001, January). Retrieved from West Virginia University Libraries: http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/policies/electronic.pdf
Equity of Access. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association: http://ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/access/equityofaccess/index.cfm
Intellectual Freedom. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association: http://ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/index.cfm
Library Bill of Rights. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/statementsif/librarybillrights.cfm
The ALA Policy Manual. (2009). Retrieved from American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/governance/policymanual/index.cfm#S2-50%2050.%20National%20Information%20Services%20and%20Responsibilities