Intellectual Freedom Statement

Approved: December 5, 2022

Intellectual freedom is a fundamental principle and a core value for public libraries, endorsed by national and international library associations including the International Federation of Library Associations, Canadian Federation of Library Associations and the Ontario Library Association. The modern concept of intellectual freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question cause or movement may be explored.”

At Toronto Public Library (TPL), intellectual freedom means supporting and facilitating the free exchange of information and ideas in a democratic society, and respecting each individual's rights to privacy and choice. Intellectual freedom is at the core of the library's mission, to preserve and promote universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas in a welcoming and supportive environment through our collections and services.

Intellectual Freedom & Equity

This commitment to intellectual freedom is also noted in TPL's Equity Statement, as equity and intellectual freedom are mutually reinforcing.

Part of TPL's commitment to equity is providing a public space where people feel free to share controversial and challenging ideas in an environment that encourages and values a diversity of thoughts, ideas and opinions. TPL welcomes diversity and supports equity and inclusion by welcoming everyone, without judgement, to pursue their interests at the library, provided they do not violate TPL's Rules of Conduct, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or Canada's Criminal Code.

TPL's commitment to freedom of expression is consistent with TPL's Vision, Mission and Values, as adopted by the Toronto Public Library Board and our obligations as a publicly funded government institution to offer services equitably to everyone, within the limits of the law. Ensuring that TPL spaces and services provide freedom of expression to all, without censorship, ensures that all voices can be heard, including and especially the voices of equity-deserving groups. At the same time, it means that individuals who may utilize the library's services may come across information or ideas they find offensive.

TPL will actively promote the following Intellectual Freedom principles:

  1. TPL is committed to equity and reconciliation, and strives to offer a welcoming, inclusive environment while upholding the principles of freedom of expression and human rights.
  2. TPL will help ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment by providing information and services where ideas and opinions can be freely exchanged, including those that are unconventional and unpopular.
  3. TPL will be a true force for democracy by providing universal access to knowledge, ideas and opinion that represent and amplify the voices of the communities it serves and meets the changing needs of Torontonians.
  4. TPL will safeguard and defend each individual's privacy and dignity to decide what they want to read, view, listen to, or services they want to access.
  5. TPL will meet its obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code that guarantee everyone the fundamental freedoms of freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, within the limits prescribed by law.

TPL will provide library staff with the tools required to uphold the principles of Intellectual Freedom, including a transparent and accessible process for the inclusion and challenging of library collections and services.

If a customer wishes to appeal a decision based on Intellectual Freedom, they may do so by writing, indicating those areas or points with which they disagree, to the City Librarian at 789 Yonge Street, Toronto M4W 2GB, or by email to

More Information on Intellectual Freedom