Over a 7 week period, 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.
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.
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.