Free People Read Freely: The Freedom to Read, the First Amendment, and Libraries as a Cornerstone of Democracy

Tumwater, WA – 9/27/2023 – In an era marked by increasing challenges to intellectual freedom and the availability of diverse literature, Timberland Regional Library reaffirms its commitment to the principles enshrined in the American Library Association's Freedom to Read, opens a new window statement. This foundational document, published in 1953 and celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, underscores the vital role of libraries as defenders of democracy and the First Amendment.

"The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack," states the Freedom to Read statement, serving as a poignant reminder of the ongoing importance of safeguarding intellectual freedom. Timberland Regional Library's Board of Trustees, recognizing the significance of these principles, initially adopted the statement in 1972 and reaffirmed its commitment in 2015.

The Freedom to Read statement emphasizes the fundamental role that public libraries play in providing access to diverse content without prejudicial judgment or labeling. By upholding confidentiality and ensuring access to materials, libraries are champions of First Amendment rights. This dedication aligns with the core values of democratic societies, allowing individuals to shape their own interests and understanding free from government interference.

Recently, Timberland Regional Library received a request to implement a book labeling policy similar to film rating systems. While libraries already categorize materials for age-appropriate access, the proposed rating system raises concerns of censorship. Such systems suggest that access to diverse viewpoints should be restricted based on subjective notions of appropriateness, undermining the principles of intellectual freedom.

It is evident that coordinated groups advocating for labeling systems or book bans often stigmatize works that explore the lives and experiences of individuals outside of perceived "appropriate" areas. These rating systems have the potential to bias attitudes and restrict access to reading materials. Additionally, libraries across the nation are facing defunding efforts due to objections to certain book titles, infringing upon individuals' First Amendment rights and the fundamental purpose of libraries.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Freedom to Read statement, Timberland Regional Library encourages all citizens to support the fundamental right to read freely. The library system invites the public to participate in Banned Books Week, taking a stand for intellectual freedom and the unimpeded exploration of diverse ideas and perspectives.

"Timberland Regional Library promotes and defends the principles of intellectual freedom based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We believe that the ability to freely choose what to read is a cornerstone of democracy and of a free society." -Executive Director, Cheryl Heywood



Media Contact:
Rose Enos-Weedmark
Administrative Coordinator
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Timberland Regional LIBRARY provides for the entertainment, information, and lifelong learning needs of Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston county residents at 29 community public libraries locations. The library system is funded mainly by local property taxes, timber tax, fundraising efforts of TRL Friends of the Library, and generous donations by individual supporters.

All Timberland library programs are free and open to the public. Anyone needing special accommodations to participate in a library’s programs may contact the library one week in advance. For more information visit