Library Bill of Rights, Article IV

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 IV.

Library Bill of Rights, Article IV

Written by: Sally LaJoie, Clinical Assistant Professor/Instructional Services Librarian

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

Historically, libraries have supported free and equitable access to ideas. Librarians enable access to information by providing free access to resources, as well as the technology to use those resources, with the belief that it is against the fundamentals of the Library Bill of Rights for any group to impose its views on others through efforts to limit access to views they oppose. Nevertheless, since information is created and disseminated by different governmental bodies, businesses, and individuals, those in power often have the ability to limit access to ideas.

The fourth of six articles in the Library Bill of Rights recognizes the importance of free access to information and advises libraries to “cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” Free access to ideas is constantly being challenged from numerous fronts: government agencies debating policies on net neutrality and internet privacy, school boards voting to ban books, and law enforcement pressuring libraries to turn over data on patron activities. With these kinds of restrictions happening, the Library Bill of Rights acknowledges the fact that libraries are strategically positioned to provide support to groups and individuals who are resisting this type of censorship.

Within academia, libraries are expected to encourage the free flow of information and ideas within the scope of their roles and responsibilities. Academic libraries support this freedom in a variety of ways, including maintaining policies that support unfiltered access to the internet and respecting patron privacy. Content filtering devices and content-based restrictions are at odds with an academic library’s mission to further learning through the broadest possible range of ideas and resources. Such restrictions can be a fundamental violation of intellectual freedom. Libraries also promote the free access of ideas through supporting library users’ rights to privacy by engaging in limited tracking of user activities so people can feel comfortable accessing resources on confidential, controversial, or unpopular topics.

Censorship and the restriction of access to information can be harmful to society and individuals. When people don’t have access to information they need, they make decisions based on the information that is freely available to them, sometimes regardless of whether that information is factual or telling the whole story. When information is withheld, our basic democratic rights are threatened as people can no longer make informed decisions.

Libraries stand for free access to ideas, even those that might make us feel uncomfortable. Library users are the curators of the ideas that inform their own beliefs, and libraries continue to be a place where people have unfettered access to put difficult ideas in context, learn about them more deeply, and formulate their own opinions.

Written by: Sally LaJoie, Clinical Assistant Professor/Instructional Services Librarian

Library Bill of Rights, Article ll

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 ll.

Library Bill or Rights, Article ll

Written by: Stephen McMinn, Director of Collections & Scholarly Communications

ll: 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.

The Library Bill of Rights consists of six statements deigned to help define the role of the library and serve as guiding principles for the services they provide. The preamble so to speak, plainly states “that all libraries are forums for information and ideas.”  The second of the six articles in the Library Bill of Rights is most closely aligned to the First Amendment to the US Constitution which protects the rights of free speech and that of a free press. This article is written in two parts, the first statement covering the acquisition of all types or viewpoints of information, and the second part opposing removal of information due to the objection of others. This article states, “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues, and materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Essentially, it states that all types of information should be included or made available such that people can explore all sides of an issue, topic, or area of study.

Many of the articles in the Library Bill of Rights are similar or related to the overall goal of providing access to information and ideas with subtle differences. One could question how this statement is different than the first article or the next article dealing with censorship. The subtle difference from the first article is this article is centered on content of the information collected whereas the 1st article is more focused on who created the content. In terms of censorship, this statement is more specific as it opposes removing items from the library because they do not fit their individual beliefs or world view as opposed to taking a stand against censorship which is the government trying to keep out ideas or information. In my view, these guiding principles are important to a healthy and vibrant society as understanding other people’s beliefs, cultures, and views leads to better understanding and empathy. However, taking these positions just like free speech is difficult and can lead to misunderstandings of the library’s role in providing a forum for information and ideas.

One of my favorite lines that describes the issues with holding these beliefs is from the movie, An American President, where the president states “America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” It’s easy when everyone agrees with you, it’s difficult when peoples’ strongly held beliefs go against yours, but hopefully the role of the library in presenting all types of information with all types of ideas and viewpoints, can foster understanding which will ultimately bring people together, not pull them apart.

Stephen McMinn, Director of Collections & Scholarly Communications