The American Library Association (2009) defines intellectual freedom as: “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.” The ability to access a diverse body of information is a core value of librarianship. In this agreement, we will see its importance throughout the library: at the service desk, in collection development, and even in technical services. The literature reviewed here supports the Atlas’ ideas on intellectual freedom.
Providing a safe place for the access and expression of a wide range of views is one area the Atlas emphasizes for librarians (Lankes, 2008). In an article on the trend of media conglomeration, the authors agree (“Fostering Media,” 2007). They note that in 2003, the Federal Communications Commission changed its regulations on media ownership so that it allowed for the increased consolidation of media sources. They observe that librarians responded by officially condemning such consolidation and setting out to study what they could do to ensure that a multiplicity of resources could survive in such a climate. Additionally, the librarians decided to try to bring more public awareness to the issue of resource diversity. This sense of awareness of problems with access is echoed in another article on the issue of patron privacy (“Model Policy,” 2007). The authors consider the consequences of the renewal of the Patriot Act in 2006, focusing on librarians’ vexed position of being forced by federal investigators to hand over their patrons’ records. They note that librarians, seeking a solution that would ease the minds of librarian and patron alike, created a standard policy for librarians to lean on when pressed on privacy issues.
Self-examination of one’s own assumptions and biases is another area the Atlas emphasizes for librarians. In his study of what guides librarians’ approaches to their work with patrons, Olsson (2009) agrees. He argues that librarians need to shift their focus from systems to users. This new approach would require a more integrated method to coordinating their work with resources and patrons, one with increased attention on emotion, relationships, and how people comprehend information. But such a goal can only be achieved if one examines one’s understanding of and relationships with patrons. Olsson holds that librarians must rethink their concept of users. Similarly, Marcoux (2009) touches on this notion of self-analysis. Marcoux took part in a pilot program for educators on improving instruction for diverse populations. The course asked participants to explore their position on issues like identity, prejudice, cultural differences, and value systems. As a result of the program, Marcoux personally felt better equipped to teach to students from a wide range of backgrounds.
1. We review and evaluate our performance fairly frequently; why don’t we give more thought to what lies beneath what we do? How can we ensure we stay ethically “sharp”?
American Library Association. (2009). Intellectual freedom. Retrieved November 13,
Fostering media diversity in libraries: Strategies and actions. (2007). Newsletter on
Intellectual Freedom, 56(5), 177, 218–226. Retrieved November 6, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
Marcoux, E. (2009). Diversity and the teacher-librarian. Teacher Librarian, 36(3), 6–7. Retrieved November 6, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
Model policy: Responding to demands for library records. (2007). American Libraries, 38(8), inserts 1–4. Retrieved November 6, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
Olsson, M. (2009). Re-thinking our concept of users. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 40(1), 22–35. Retrieved November 6, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.