Library Bill of Rights, Article lll

It’s National Library Week, April 9-15!

People often don’t know much about the work that libraries do, or that there is a Library Bill of Rights. That’s right, we have our own guiding principles that help determine how we serve our patrons and communities. We hope you learn a little big more of our library, our librarians and the Library Bill of Rights during National Library Week.

Throughout National Library Week, the Faculty at Brookens Library will be sharing a blog series expounding on each article of the Library Bill of Rights. Each of the 6 principles in the Library Bill of Rights broadly outlines an ideal that librarians support and upon which they model behavior, practice, and services. As with most ideals, pursuit of the tenets of the Library Bill of Rights is not an effortless task. Each of the points we’ll be discussing come with their own special challenges and obstacles. Today we are featuring Article lll.

Library Bill or Rights, Article lll.

Written by: Steven Ward, Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor/ Visiting User Services and Instructional Services Librarian

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

While all articles contained within in the library Bill of Rights deal with issues of intellectual freedom, the third article speaks more specifically to the responsibility of libraries and librarians to provide access to information of all types, and to challenge attempts of censorship when and where they exist. The limiting of access to information deemed too controversial because it runs contrary to the beliefs or opinions of either a single person, or to a group of people, have had some success through censorship, and although the intentions are often only meant to protect a few, they instead work to threaten all who actively pursue enlightenment and knowledge. Librarians must remain active on the front lines of censorship challenges to ensure that intellectual freedom can be preserved for all.

Even though attempts at censoring information and preventing enlightenment are most prevalent in public and school libraries, academic librarians must still actively contribute to the overall conversation, help to support the cause, and always be ready to defend the intellectual and academic freedom of others should challenges arise. Historically, materials that contained offensive language, were sexually explicit, or were ideological in nature, were targets of the censor, but other materials have been targeted simply because the ideas or subject matter put forward was more forward thinking and progressive than what was traditionally accepted at the time. When looking at banned books lists specifically, which provide some evidence of cases of censorship existing in libraries across the United States, it is most often these very materials that eventually gain wide acceptance for both helping to bring about social change, and for helping to shape the course of history. As a librarian, the idea that someone would choose to censor information or ban books was quite surprising to me at first, but after better understanding the responsibility we have in serving our community, as well as the negative implications that such bans can have on intellectual freedom rights, I am committed to ensuring that access to information of all types, controversial or not, is available to all who wish to seek it.

One way to stay informed and to help challenge censorship in libraries, is to celebrate ALA’s “Banned Books Week”. By promoting both successful and unsuccessful cases of banned and challenged books, ALA provides an awareness that allows libraries and librarians to engage the public in a discussion that can only help to highlight the importance of intellectual freedom and the right to read. This year’s event will take place the week of Sept 24th through Sept 30th. I am linking the site below, and I encourage you to browse the various banned books lists and literature found on this page.

Steven Ward, Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor/ Visiting User Services and Instructional Services Librarian

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