Over the next 7 weeks, 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. This week we are featuring Article ll.
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.
Library Bill or Rights, Article II.
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