Patron Complaints Policy


1. The library fully endorses the principles documented in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement of the American Library Association. Materials available in the library present a diversity of viewpoints, enabling citizens to make the informed choices necessary in a democracy. The library also selects a wide variety of library materials that satisfy the diverse interests of our community. The library upholds the right of the individual to secure these resources, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, and unacceptable to some. The library’s varied collection is available to all; however, it is not expected that all the collection will appeal to everyone. The library also supports and upholds the rights of all patrons to engage with the collection and the right to challenge materials based on personal belief.

Patrons who wish to request the withdrawal or reclassification of materials currently owned by the library are encouraged to discuss their concerns with library staff and/or the Library Director. The library shall follow the below procedures for informal and formal reconsideration requests of materials, services, programs, and usage of the library. Personnel concerns/complaints will be handled in accordance to Iowa Law and with all due confidentiality entitled therein for personnel issues. 

2. The Library staff should be aware that occasional complaints may occur regarding Library services, materials, programs, or usage. Although it is hoped such occurrences will be rare, it is essential that the Library have in place a policy concerning all types of complaints and that the staff be well familiarized with it. 

3. The staff must be constantly aware that they project the image of the Library - an image that should reflect courteous, friendly, and helpful service. Any staff member should be prepared to accept an informal or formal complaint regarding library materials, programs, services, or usage. Library staff should refer complaints about staff behavior directly to the Library Director, due to the confidential nature of this type of personnel discussion. Staff should do their best to communicate with the complainant that objections will be given serious consideration and that interest in the operation of the Library is welcome.


4. Informal Complaints can occur at any time and are verbal in nature. These types of concerns could vary from questions about materials, to library policy, and overall library access issues. Staff should:

  1. Acknowledge and appreciate the person’s question, listening thoughtfully and respectfully to the concern.

  2. Attempt to interact with neutral language about the concern, eliciting as much information as possible.

  3. Offer solutions and information, including assistance finding alternative resources, providing copies of library policy, and discussing with patrons ALA’s Freedom to Read, ALA’s Access for Minors, or other relevant library tenents.

  4. If the patron is not satisfied with the information provided, offer the formal reconsideration form to the patron, indicating it should be completed in order to begin a formal reconsideration process. Staff should also explain that this document will become part of the official record of the complaint and will be provided to other individuals as a part of the outline process below.

  5. Staff should make notes regarding the conversation, including concern, information offered, and any other relevant information, remembering that their documentation will become part of the public record in the event of a formal reconsideration request.

5. The formal reconsideration process begins with a patron completing a formal reconsideration form (see attachment A) and submitting to the Library Director, following these steps:

  1. Acknowledgement of receipt: patron will be informed by library director that the reconsideration form has been received, as well as a copy of pertinent policies (mission statement, collection development policy, reconsideration policy, and Library Bill of Rights), and anticipated timeline.

  2. Each challenge will require a separate form, and the entire process will be completed independently of another challenge for each book. Therefore, patrons acknowledge, in the event of challenging multiple books, the library will evaluate one after the other, rather than all books at the same time, in order to give each challenge the consideration and time it deserves. Patrons may request or rank their multiple challenges based on the order in which the library should review, if they so choose.

  3. Review of the complaint by Library Director, specifically identifying reasons for the challenge and requested action to be taken about the challenge.

  4. Library Director and two other people (such as library staff or community members) will read and review the challenged resource in its entirety, then work to prepare a document for the evaluation of the material in question, including the following information:

    1. Title and plot summary/content summary

    2. Review of selection criteria that resource met to be included in the collection

    3. List of positive reviews/awards received

    4. Circulation statistics, availability within other libraries, or other statistics

    5. Summary of the reconsideration process

    6. Copy of the reconsideration form and all other documentation that has been completed by library staff and/or patron to submit for public record.

  5. Library Director will make a decision, in consultation with the two other readers, regarding the retention of the item and issue a letter to the patron issuing the complaint, including instructions for appeal. All communications and information will also be provided to the board for informational purposes. This letter will include:

    1. Title/author/producer of the resource

    2. Whether or not every member of the committee has read the material entirely, and if not, why.

    3. Resources consulted for decision making, including policies, articles, reviews, etc.

    4. Committee recommendation.

    5. Justification and comments, including majority/minority opinions.

    6. Signatures of all committee members and date.

  6. If the patron is dissatisfied with the decision, a written appeal must be submitted within 10 business days to the Board of Trustees. Patrons may submit such letters in writing via email, mail, or in person at the Library.

  7. At this time, the Board of Trustees will have a minimum of 10 business days before they will hear the reconsideration as a part of their next regularly scheduled board meeting. The board will have the opportunity to review the resource in its entirety before hearing the reconsideration, as well as all official communication regarding the complaint. All open meetings laws shall be followed, including public notice of the reconsideration on the agenda, and at this time, all documentation becomes part of the public record. The patron filing the complaint will be notified of the reconsideration hearing’s time, date, and location. The Board of Trustees reserves the right to limit the length of public comments during the reconsideration hearing, as well as reserves the right to amend/waive timelines if so desired. Any changes will be issues via letter to the patron responsible for the challenge.

  8. During the reconsideration public hearing, Board of Trustees will evaluate keeping in mind these guiding principles:

    1. Questioned items will remain in circulation during the reconsideration process.

    2. Libraries have diverse materials reflecting differing points of view, and a library’s mission is to provide access to information to all users.

    3. All library users have a First Amendment right to read, view, and lister to library resources.

    4. The Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement of the American Library Association can be used as guiding documents.

    5. Any person has the right to express concerns about library resources and expect to have the objection taken seriously.

    6. When library resources are reconsidered, the principles of the freedom to read, listen, and view are defended, rather than specific materials.

    7. A questioned item will be considered in its entirety, not judged solely on portions taken out of context.

    8. Parents and guardians have the right to guide the reading, viewing, and listening of their children but must give the same right to other parents/guardians.

    9. The reconsideration process should be completed in its entirety and not subverted or ended prematurely, leaving the library open to legal challenge.

    10. The decision of the board at this time is final.

6. After the board’s decision:

  1. The decision to remove an item from the library’s collection does not indicate any wrongdoing on the part of the library, but is a resolution of a democratic process.

  2. The decision to retain an item from the library’s collection does not indicate any endorsement by the library board of content contained but that the item meets established policy and criteria to be made available in the library’s collection. Once a book has been challenged and retained, it is unable to be challenged for three years.

  3. If a material is retained, the library cannot restrict access or grant requests to do so; the library does not act in loco parentis, and the responsibility to restrict access lies with parents of minor children.

  4. Notification of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom that a formal complaint was made and the outcome and provide the necessary information for tracking purposes on the national level.

  5. Notification of the Iowa Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom that a formal complaint was made and outcome and provide the necessary information for tracking purposes on the state level.

  6. Library Director will notify all library staff regarding the outcome of all proceedings and retain all necessary records, keeping in mind that all documents are available to any interested party making a request through proper channels, including Freedom of Information Act requests.

  7. Library Director will review the process upon completion and make recommendations to the library board for inclusion in the reconsideration process to streamline, effectively communicate, and create a better system for handling reconsiderations for all involved, including patrons, staff, and board of trustees.


Written February 2000

Adopted December 2005

Revised April 2008

Reviewed March 2009

Revised August 2012

Reviewed December 2015

Reviewed November 2019

Amended March 2022