Freedom of Expression Policy

Application: Library Trustees and Staff

Policy:

1. Political Activities

Employees have exactly the same right as any other citizen to join political organizations and participate in political activities, as long as they maintain a clear separation between their official responsibilities and their political affiliations.  However, staff members have an obligation to maintain the neutrality of the library environment.  Employees are prohibited from engaging in political activities while performing their public duties and from using library time, supplies, or equipment in any political activity which does not directly support library activities.

2. Political Literature

While the library must maintain neutrality of opinion, the library also serves as a center of information.  Therefore, the library may provide space for campaign literature or position papers and make these available for inspection and distribution.  The library will provide this availability to all candidates and issues, maintaining a prohibition of bias for or against any person or issue.  However, the library is not responsible for the accuracy of the content or the adequacy of the supply of these materials; both responsibilities lie with the candidate.  Should the library become a polling place, all political information will be removed from within 100 feet on Election Day.

3. Freedom of Expression

The United States Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression in the form of the right to free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble.   Public libraries also act as the last bastion of intellectual freedom in our society.  It is imperative that library staff work to protect the right of library patrons to have free and equal access to information without discrimination, while at the same time maintaining a safe and neutral library environment.  To this end, library staff has a responsibility to maintain a professional stance of neutrality and objectivity in the course of their work as agents of the library.  However, this neutrality cannot be expected to extend to the personal beliefs or actions of the library staff outside of the workplace. 

Library staff can expect to enjoy personal freedom of expression in the form of, but not limited to:

  1. Personal discourse and debate
  2. Petition signing
  3. Display of signage
  4. Attendance at meetings and gatherings
  5. Service on committees that do not constitute a clear conflict of interest
4. Library Staff Right to Privacy

Library staff is expected to maintain a clear distinction between personal convictions and professional obligations when in the performance of library duties or acting as an agent of the library.  Library staff also have a constitutionally protected right to privacy concerning the affairs of their personal, day-to-day activities.  Under no circumstances should personal activities invite comment from Board members or impact evaluative measures unless such activities constitute a disruption to or prevention of adequate job performance.

Responsibility: The Board of Trustees will enforce the civil rights of library staff.
Adopted: September 12, 2013.
Revised:  June 20, 2019