United States v. American Library Association, Inc., 539 U.S. 194, 12 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 194 (2003)

Opinion of Rehnquist, C. J.

Similarly, in National Endowment for Arts v. Finley, 524 U. S. 569 (1998), we upheld an art funding program that required the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to use content-based criteria in making funding decisions. We explained that "[a]ny content-based considerations that may be taken into account in the grant-making process are a consequence of the nature of arts funding." Id., at 585. In particular, "[t]he very assumption of the NEA is that grants will be awarded according to the 'artistic worth of competing applicants,' and absolute neutrality is simply inconceivable." Ibid. (some internal quotation marks omitted). We expressly declined to apply forum analysis, reasoning that it would conflict with "NEA's mandate . . . to make esthetic judgments, and the inherently content-based 'excellence' threshold for NEA support." Id., at 586.

The principles underlying Forbes and Finley also apply to a public library's exercise of judgment in selecting the material it provides to its patrons. Just as forum analysis and heightened judicial scrutiny are incompatible with the role of public television stations and the role of the NEA, they are also incompatible with the discretion that public libraries must have to fulfill their traditional missions. Public library staffs necessarily consider content in making collection decisions and enjoy broad discretion in making them.

The public forum principles on which the District Court relied, 201 F. Supp. 2d, at 457-470, are out of place in the context of this case. Internet access in public libraries is neither a "traditional" nor a "designated" public forum. See Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Inc., 473 U. S. 788, 802 (1985) (describing types of forums). First, this resource—which did not exist until quite recently—has not "immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, . . . been used for purposes of assembly, communication of thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions." International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U. S. 672, 679 (1992) (internal quo-


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