Library Bill of Rights, Article V

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 V.

WEEK 5

Article V.  A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

In many ways, libraries are the great equalizer. No matter your educational background, your age, your beliefs, or any other aspect of your identity, libraries are open to all, so that all may obtain the resources they need. Creating and maintaining diverse collections, providing unfiltered access to the Internet, and making costly subscription-based online resources available is our foundation. But these collections and services would be meaningless if we limited access to select groups of people. For that reason, I find article 5 of the Library Bill of Rights to be the most impactful.

As an academic library serving a campus community, our primary focus is the university’s student, staff, and faculty. But our resources and services are not limited to those populations. Our doors are open to all. Research is not exclusively done by those with access to a college education. Using computers and the internet are more increasingly the only way to participate in certain basic functions of daily life, and information literacy is not a skill just for the classroom, but for life. Serving Springfield and beyond is an important part of our job.

This openness extends beyond serving patrons who are not affiliated with our university, but has a much broader scope. Brookens, like all libraries adhering to the Library Bill of Rights, places no limitations on patrons based on their origin, age, background, or views. Just like we make both sides of the issue available in our collections, we make that collection available to those with beliefs on either side of the issue, as well as those in-between and undecided. Additionally, we make no assumptions about what people of particular groups will want or need when providing resources. Instead, deciding what resources are appropriate or of interest is entirely up to each individual to decide, and they will be able to do so without censorship or judgment.

It is our honor to serve our UIS community as well as the community at-large and our responsibility to continue to advocate for their right to access the information all of our patrons need or desire.

Written By: Sarah Sagmoen, Director of Learning Commons and User Services

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.

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/

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

Library Bill of Rights: Article l

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.

Over the next 7 days, 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. Point 1 is no exception:

The Library Bill of Rights (LBR), or as it was originally named, Library’s Bill of Rights, of the American Library Association “serves as the library profession’s interpretation of how the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies to libraries” (Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2010, p. xix). Specifically related to the First Amendment, the LBR interprets how “the freedom of speech, or of the press” applies to library practices. The ALA interprets these freedoms broadly to include intellectual freedom, “a freedom of the mind, a personal liberty and a prerequisite for all freedoms [End Page 42] leading to action.” Intellectual freedom is “the bulwark of our constitutional republic . . . [and] . . . the rallying cry of those who struggle for democracy worldwide,” according to the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual, the official interpretive document and guide on implementing the LBR within the context of US libraries (Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2010, pp. xvii–xviii). (Reexamining the Origins of the Adoption of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, p. 1)

The Library Bill of Rights:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

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

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

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WEEK 1

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

The Library Bill of Rights can be thought of as a sort of Hippocratic Oath for librarians. Obviously, the circumstances surrounding a typical librarian’s day to day activity limit our chances to do actual, physical harm – sudden shelf collapses and the adventures medical librarians get up to being notable exceptions. However, as drivers of collections and stewards of information, librarians can have quite an impact on the populations we serve on other ways. Most notably, in terms of access to information.

Our patrons are largely dependent on librarians to create and maintain the collections they use. Though many libraries give their patrons the option of requesting things to be added to the collections, the bulk of the collecting is done by professional librarians. Point one of the Library Bill of Rights places this part of the patron/librarian relationship front and center. It is a commitment to intellectual freedom on our patrons’ behalf. It is also a reminder to librarians to not let our own ideas about ‘proper’ reading material warp our collection.

While this point doesn’t meant that librarians are morally or ethically obligated to include hate speech (for example) in our collections, it does mean that we need to be mindful of our own biases in a general sense. In the past, librarians have had some practices that could be, generously, called shortsighted – even if they were well-intentioned. Specifically, I’m talking about the long history librarians have of self-righteous readers advisory and collections activities.

Briefly speaking, at various points in the history of libraries, certain types of information have been privileged over others. The idea being that librarians were the ideal group of people to determine the relative intellectual value of the items in the library’s collection. In the 20’s and 30’s this meant that nonfiction was overwhelmingly given center stage. It also led to some fairly embarrassing ideas about matching patron types to books in other eras. I have vivid memories of an old library text book on readers advisory that advised librarians to suggest Crime and Punishment as ideal reading material for their patrons that looked like they might be sort who needed the reminder.

At the end of the day, it’s not the place of the librarian to make these sort of deep cutting judgement calls. Librarians have a great amount of potential to influence our patrons, but our collections are just not the right way to exert that power. In the face of the sheer amount of information available today, it is also not an effective strategy. It artificially holds librarians into a very narrow collection focus and, arguably, reduces the effectiveness and usefulness of our collections. It’s much more efficient to teach out patrons how to do that for their own individual needs.

John Laubersheimer, Clinical Assistant Professor/Instructional Services Librarian