The mission of the Young Men’s Library Association is to provide materials in many formats to facilitate life-long learning and enjoyment for the patrons of the library. To this end, the library collects fiction and nonfiction books in a variety of formats, including but not limited to regular print books, large print books and audiobooks. DVDs of popular films, television series, documentaries and instructional materials are also collected, as are various library materials in other formats. The library partners with the CW/MARS library consortium and the State of Massachusetts to provide electronic books and downloadable audiobooks for patrons. The library also maintains a collection of historical books and documents related to the Town of Ware, the Quabbin Reservoir, and the surrounding area.
The library holds materials for patrons of all age. Parents and legal guardians of minor children are responsible for choosing what library materials they read, view or check out. The selection of materials for the adult collection is not restricted by the possibility that children or adolescents may obtain materials considered inappropriate by their own parents or legal guardians. The library endorses the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read statement and Library Bill of Rights, which are amended below, and guarantee the rights of library users to read and view materials from all points of view, not just those endorsed by one group over the views of others.
The library uses a variety of criteria to choose materials to purchase for the library. Where possible, reviews of books in professional magazines such as Booklist, School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews are consulted, but not all books and materials that the public desires or are needed to have a useful collection are reviewed. The library endeavors to purchase materials from reputable publishers and distributors to make sure that the materials selected contain accurate information. Below is a list of criteria considered when purchasing or adding materials to the collection. Individual items may not fit all criteria but still be useful to the collection
From time to time the library staff assesses the collection and may choose to remove materials from the collection. This is due to a number of factors, including outdated information, poor condition, and lack of use. Out of date materials and those in poor condition are considered for replacement, while other materials are sold, given away or discarded at the discretion of library staff and trustees.
Gifts to the library:
The library takes donations of books and other materials from the public if there is space available to store them at the library. Old magazines, encyclopedias and text books are never accepted. Donated materials are assessed by the library staff and may be added to the library collection, sold at Friends of the Library book sales, donated to other organizations or discarded at the discretion of the staff. If a specific book is donated to the library for the collection, the library director has discretion to add the book to the collection if it fits the collection criteria, but retains the right to reject the item for inclusion in the collection. Historical items donated to the library may be retained by the library but held in the special collection area, where they are available for viewing upon request.
The library strives to collect books written by authors local to the area. Those published commercially and self-published will be considered for addition to the collection. Once added, books by local authors become subject to the same criteria for retention or removal from the collection as other library materials. Books by local authors with historical significance to the area may be stored in the historical collection rather than being made accessible in the general collection.
Requests to reconsider or remove materials from the library must be made in writing on the “Requestion for Reconsideration” form appended to this document, which may be requested from any library staff member. Requests for reconsideration will be considered by the library director and items will be evaluated in relationship to the collection development policy and the American Library Association Freedom to Read statement and Library Bill of rights. If the person raising the complaint wishes for the material to be housed in a different collection location in the library, that will be considered as well. When a decision has been made, the Library Director will contact the person raising the complaint. If the person indicates dissatisfaction with the result of the Library Director’s decision, they may raise the complaint with the library’s Board of Trustees, who will consider the matter further and render a decision on the item in question. Requests for reconsideration must come from residents of Ware or the immediately surrounding towns that make up the service area for the library, or patrons who obtained their library card at the Young Men’s Library and are regular library users. Requests for reconsideration of material without a local connection will not be considered.
The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.
Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be “protected” against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.
These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.
Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.
Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.
We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate, in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of offerings.
The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.
We therefore affirm these propositions:
Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.
Publishers and librarians serve the educational process by helping to make available knowledge and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They do not foster education by imposing as mentors the patterns of their own thought. The people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or government or church. It is wrong that what one can read should be confined to what another thinks proper.
No art or literature can flourish if it is to be measured by the political views or private lives of its creators. No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.
To some, much of modern expression is shocking. But is not much of life itself shocking? We cut off literature at the source if we prevent writers from dealing with the stuff of life. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare the young to meet the diversity of experiences in life to which they will be exposed, as they have a responsibility to help them learn to think critically for themselves. These are affirmative responsibilities, not to be discharged simply by preventing them from reading works for which they are not yet prepared. In these matters values differ, and values cannot be legislated; nor can machinery be devised that will suit the demands of one group without limiting the freedom of others.
The ideal of labeling presupposes the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by authority what is good or bad for others. It presupposes that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. But Americans do not need others to do their thinking for them.
It is inevitable in the give and take of the democratic process that the political, the moral, or the aesthetic concepts of an individual or group will occasionally collide with those of another individual or group. In a free society individuals are free to determine for themselves what they wish to read, and each group is free to determine what it will recommend to its freely associated members. But no group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and to impose its own concept of politics or morality upon other members of a democratic society. Freedom is no freedom if it is accorded only to the accepted and the inoffensive. Further, democratic societies are more safe, free, and creative when the free flow of public information is not restricted by governmental prerogative or self-censorship.
The freedom to read is of little consequence when the reader cannot obtain matter fit for that reader’s purpose. What is needed is not only the absence of restraint, but the positive provision of opportunity for the people to read the best that has been thought and said. Books are the major channel by which the intellectual inheritance is handed down, and the principal means of its testing and growth. The defense of the freedom to read requires of all publishers and librarians the utmost of their faculties, and deserves of all Americans the fullest of their support.
We state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.
This statement was originally issued in May of 1953 by the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, which in 1970 consolidated with the American Educational Publishers Institute to become the Association of American Publishers.
Adopted June 25, 1953, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee; amended January 28, 1972; January 16, 1991; July 12, 2000; June 30, 2004.
A Joint Statement by:
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.
Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; January 29, 2019.
Inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.
Telephone Number:_______________________ Email Address__________________________
Title/Author of item you wish us to reconsider:
How did this item come to your attention? (Found on library shelf; recommended by library staff, book review, a friend, or media source; other)
Did you read or watch the entire item? If not, were there specific sections you read or viewed?
What did you find objectionable? Please be specific, cite pages, excerpts or scenes where possible. Please use the reverse of this sheet if you need more space for your comments if necessary.
Would moving this item to a different section of the library, for example, moving the item from the Children’s Room to the Young Adult section alleviate your concerns? (Please note that the library may choose not to move an item in the collection, but will consider moving an item if a case can be made that it would be more appropriate to house it elsewhere in the collection.)
The Library Director will contact you in a timely fashion once your complaint has been evaluated to let you know the decision made about this material.