Freedom of access to information

Intellectual freedom is the right to access and share information, to intellectual activity and creativity, to expression and debate. 

A fair and prosperous democratic society is built upon access to information and ideas, the ability to develop knowledge and communicate with others.


Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous.
Definition of censorship from the American Library Association

When a library and information service is funded by the public it should provide access to all publically available information as far as resources allow.

Access should not be restricted on any grounds but the law and the legal basis of any restriction should always be stated. Library and information professionals should have full control over collection development, management and access within broad policies set by their organisation.

Freedom of information

CILIP believes that all publicly funded information, including Government data and publicly funded research, should be accessible to the public unless there is good reason otherwise. A good reason would include the excluded categories listed in the Freedom of Information Act (2000). The default position for information generated in Government must be that it should be made publically available.

Within a knowledge economy information assets are business critical to many businesses and other independently funded organisations. These assets provide competitive advantage, contribute to profit and help them meet their objectives. Access may be restricted on grounds such as commercial interest. Such organisations should manage their information within an appropriate regulatory and ethical framework.

CILIP's Statement on Intellectual Freedom, Access to information and Censorship sets out our commitment to promoting a society where intellectual activity and creativity, freedom of expression and debate, and access to information are encourages and nurtured as vital elements underpinning individual and community fulfillment in all aspects of human life.

Promoting intellectual freedom and human rights are central to the library and information profession’s ethics and values.

Library and information professionals have a unique role providing access to information and knowledge by managing, developing and making materials and resources available to their users. 

CILIP opposes censorship and supports the right to intellectual freedom.

We believe that freedom of expression, freedom to debate and access to information are fundamental in a free and democratic society.

CILIP Members

Commitment to the defence, and the advancement, of access to information, ideas and works of the imagination.
CILIP Ethical Principle, no. 3

CILIP members span the public and private sectors including schools, businesses, colleges, prisons, Government, healthcare and the public library network.

The Code of Professional Practice for library, information and knowledge professionals applies the Ethical Principles to members' responsibilities. The Code also makes some points about professional behaviour.

It includes the responsibility to:

  • Promote equitable access for all members of society to public domain information of all kinds and in all formats.
  • Promote the necessary skills and knowledge amongst users to become effective independent learners and researchers.
  • Make the process of providing information, and the standards and procedures governing that process, as clear and open as possible.
  • Protect the confidentiality of all matters relating to information users, including their enquiries, any services to be provided, and any aspects of the users' personal circumstances or business.
  • Defend the legitimate needs and interests of information users, while upholding the moral and legal rights of the creators and distributors of intellectual property.
  • Strive to achieve an appropriate balance within the law between demands from information users, the need to respect confidentiality, the terms of their employment, the public good and the responsibilities outlined in this Code.

Freedom of access to the internet

CILIP endorses the Council of Europe's guidelines on public access and freedom of expression in networked information. The guidelines see the use of filtering systems to block access to certain content as an "unwarranted interference with the individual's freedom of access to information."

CILIP is concerned that recent research suggests that filtered access to the internet is now a standard approach in UK public libraries and in some instances users are not informed of this. 

The library and information profession supports the right to access information and to share information and ideas across frontiers and in any media, including the internet. Professionally led library and information services play an important role providing access to the internet and the skills, motivation and trust people need to get online and participate digitally.