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Support for dealing with or reporting challenges to library materials

Definitions to Clarify Terminology Associated with Challenges

This page provides links to guidelines, policies, and other materials to help librarians and others deal with challenges themselves.

This page provides links to report a challenge.  Please print the Challenge Database Form (PDF) or the Online Challenge Database Form, complete it, and fax it to OIF, Office for Intellectual Freedom, at 312-280-4227.

For assistance with actual and possible challenges to books, Internet access, magazines, and other library materials, you also may contact Angela Maycock, Assistant Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or OIF, Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223.


In 1986, in response to inquiries from librarians facing book or material challenges for the first time, the Intellectual Freedom Committee developed the following list of definitions to clarify terminology associated with challenges:

  • Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones.
  • Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question.
  • Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.
  • Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action.
  • Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Office for Intellectual Freedom necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and OIF do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.

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