Library Bill of Rights
Spaulding wrote the Library Bill of Rights in 1938, as the world stood on the brink of a second world war. Later that year, he presented it to the Des Moines Public Library’s board and it was used as a general proclamation for a person’s right to information. The library vowed to stand firm against any attempt to curtail its collection and to ban certain books from being available to read.
The ALA adopted the Library Bill of Rights in 1939 in response to the pressures of the book Grapes of Wrath. At the same time, ALA voted to establish a Committee on Censorship. In May 1940, ALA released a statement saying that “to burn or destroy a book is to destroy a part of the heritage of knowledge to which future generations are entitled.” The Committee on Intellectual Freedom was formed to “safeguard the rights of library users to freedom of inquiry...in accordance with the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Library’s Bill of Rights.” The Library’s Bill of Rights originally focused on unbiased book selection, a balanced collection and open meeting rooms.
In the 1940s he became an outspoken critic of censorship. A Des Moines minister protested to Spaulding that Hitler’s Mein Kampf, should be banned at the library. Spaulding responded by saying that “if more people had read Mein Kampf, some of Hitler’s despotism might have been prevented.” He maintained that danger to the United States was not in knowing all about Hitler, but in not knowing all about him. He said that “we should fear the tendency of small minds in these days of stress.”