Intellectual Freedom

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LIS Collection Development lecture

LIS Collection Development lecture

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  • Good evening everyone and thank you Dr. Jordan for inviting me to your Collection Management course with Library & Information Studies students from UNC-G, home of the fighting “Spartans” – Yeah! Today I’m excited to talk with you all about one of the core tenets of our profession – Intellectual Freedom. Intellectual Freedom is one of the principles that truly embodies the ethos of librarianship, what makes us a profession, and it also epitomizes that Librarians are cool hipsters too! Values are an important part of who we are. They influence our actions and the choices we make every day. Our personal values determine the types of people we surround ourselves with. They impact the way we raise our children, the way we interact with others and the way we expect others to interact with us. Values are the things we hold most dear, the principles on which we base our entire lives. So, you probably understand and recognize your personal values very well. You've spent your whole life developing and refining them. You most likely learned a lot about values from your parents and you'll probably pass some of yours along to your children. But what about your professional values? Do you know what they are? Have you spent much time thinking about what's most important to you professionally? Many of you probably haven't looked at it quite so specifically. Professional values are at the very foundation of your career. What are Professional Values? - Professional values are the principles that guide your decisions and actions in your career. We make professional decisions every day. For example: what job to take, what project to work on, who to associate with, how to prioritize tasks, when and how to voice opinions, what level of commitment to make, etc. Every decision should be driven by your professional values.
  • Well briefly who am I and how did I get asked to be here tonight to stand before you? Again my name is Michael Lambert and I’m not an expert in Intellectual Freedom but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Seriously I have been working in public libraries since 11/92 when I started working as a library aide in the Periodicals Department of the Main Library in Richland County, located in Columbia, SC. I spent 7 ½ years working in numerous capacities before graduating from CLIS and moving to the west coast where I worked for 6 years for the San Mateo County Library in NorCal. I returned to the Carolinas in 2006 and I’ve been blessed to work for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library since that time as a Library Manager.
  • Before we get started I thought I’d share a funny clip that I found when researching this topic and preparing for this presentation. It is a few years old but a reminder of the furor drummed up by our profession’s opposition to the Patriot Act following 9/11. Who knew librarians were such passionate defenders of our civil rights and protectors of privacy?! (No constitutional right to privacy explicitly stated but Supreme Court has upheld this principle in various rulings related to Bill of Rights). Before you dismiss this clip as over the top – consider whether or not you would feel comfortable as a citizen in North Korea, China or Iran entering a library or educational institution to seek information about voting rights, resistance movements or how to seek political asylum in the US.
  • One thing I took away from library school was an understanding and theoretical underpinning of what it is we do as librarians – ODAPCOSRIU. We are concerned with… of information
  • So what is intellectual freedom? What do you all think Intellectual Freedom is? How would you define Intellectual Freedom? Intellectual freedom is an important topic should be discussed – no matter your job title, as a library professional you will be confronted with situations, libraries are unique, part of our mission – right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Provides for free access to all expressions of an idea to which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Part of the libraries obligation to our patrons is to have a neutral standpoint on materials and information by presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Library staff supports this obligation by remaining neutral when speaking with our patrons and not expressing personal preferences or beliefs. Presence of materials does not imply endorsement of those ideas expressed in those materials. Library is simply doing its job by providing information from all points of view. Which public library had the very first statement on Intellectual Freedom?
  • According to Joyce Latham’s article: Wheat and Chaff: Carl Roden, Abe Korman, and the Definitions of Intellectual Freedom in the Chicago Public Library – the adoption of the 1 st formal intellectual freedom policy of any public library in the US signaled a decided shift in the mission of the American public library – from social and moral uplift to social activism. At the time, the library refused demands from Polish and Russian groups to remove communistic or pornographic works – if you consider what was happening in the world and in our country in the 1930s one can sense the polarization surrounding this challenge. Fortunately a “Committee on Library” part of the governing board of the CPL met w/the foreign language communities to discuss their reactions to the challenged materials: The committee found that, indeed, the works of Trotsky, Lenin and Marx were in the library… (read article)
  • The number of reported challenges in the past 30 years has hovered between about 400 or 500 each year, says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, an attorney with the American Library Association . Sex is not always the primary concern. A Seattle high school recently dropped Aldous Huxley 's Brave New World from its 10th-grade required reading list after a parent objected to the book's depiction of American Indians as savages.
  • Our professional association, the American Library Assocation, affirmed the Library Bill of Rights in 1939, largely based on the Des Moines Public Library’s Bill of Rights for a Free Public Library, that was adopted a year earlier.
  • The American Library Association has a handy dandy Intellectual Freedom Manual in their online toolkits on their website.
  • So what does one do exactly when you are faced with an irate, emotional challenge to a book in the collection? Or a cool, calm and collected challenge from someone with a different kid of agenda? It is recommended that when you are faced with such a situation that you remain calm and listen to the aggrieved party as many times they merely want to vent. Collection must be inclusive and reflective of the diverse viewpoints and interests in our community – 890,000 residents You can ask them “Did you read the entire book?” “ We are a diverse community with a diverse cross-section of viewpoints…” There is truly something here for everyone to be offended  If they do not accept your neutral stance, you can move their challenge up the flag pole with the Statement of Concern form. I had a mother approach me once with a picture book about the circus that had a drawing of a carnival performer that she felt showed too much cleavage, which piqued her son’s interest too much for her taste. I also was approached by a man and woman who complained about a true crime DVD in our nonfiction collection – they felt the documentary was too disturbing because of the nature of the pornographic, sexual crimes committed. It runs the gamut.
  • It can be tough… Ask Peter Gorman – In 2006, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools pulled “And Tango Makes Three” from 4 elementary school libraries after a few parents and county commissioner Bill James questioned it. Some critics said it promoted homosexuality. CMS later reinstated the picture book, which tells the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who paired up and hatched an adopted egg.
  • The policy I defend is one of our Core Values at Charlotte Mecklenburg – Freedom to Know. Highly visible set of core values on our website along with our mission.
  • Central to the defense of any stance on intellectual freedom for a library organization is the materials selection policy
  • Interview story about Storyteller – had a direct report once who recounted that she had a job candidate that admitted during an interview that she would not take a child to certain books in collection. She admitted that she would subvert this commitment as she could not balance her own personal beliefs about what was appropriate and what was inappropriate. Interview question about a 1 st grader that asked for books about puberty, the body, teenager seeking books about sexuality, pregnancy.
  • There was a great article in the observer a few weeks back by Pam Kelley. She cited some of the most farfetched reasons for banning books: "The Rabbit's Wedding," by Garth Williams, was criticized for brainwashing readers into accepting miscegenation by depicting a black bunny marrying a white bunny. "Little Red Riding Hood," by the Brothers Grimm, was accused of promoting alcohol use. Red Riding Hood's basket contained a bottle of wine. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," by Dee Brown, was deemed possibly controversial, and controversy is best avoided. North Carolina has had its share of book challenges. In recent decades, profanity in John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" provoked complaints in Burlington and Carthage. In 2004, parents at Stanford Middle School in Durham argued unsuccessfully to take Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" off school shelves, citing the book's use of the N-word. One of the nice things about living in our country is that efforts to ban books frequently backfire – instead of being banned, a challenged book often gets lots more attention than it might have otherwise – and new readership. We celebrate Banned Books Week every year with special displays and programming. Teen Librarian Rebecca roped off a crime scene in the teen area…
  • Quotes from: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by:  Harper Lee I love this quote - Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. --Chapter 2
  • Challenged and banned nationwide because of racial slurs and adult themes – we encouraged the entire community to read this book to stimulate a dialogue and social discourse
  • Intellectual Freedom runs through the very fabric of every service response we provide to the community. As you venture out into the working world you will find that libraries have different priorities and focus areas for how they take the scarce resources they are entrusted with, and provide services to meet specific needs for library and information services. One of the service responses of a well stocked public library is to…
  • We don’t steer people away from Hemingway in favor of Coulter – we are the entire community’s reading room
  • Selection is one of the activities that make us a librarian, coveted activity as subject matter expertise has become more and more centralized Incumbent must demonstrate the ability to analyze collection coverage and needs from a variety of perspectives Incumbent exercises experienced judgment and knowledge of the theories and principles of librarianship Factors as publication patterns, availability, budgetary concerns as well as the needs of many constituencies
  • Largest provider of free internet access in Mecklenburg County – do you think Intellectual Freedom plays a role in how a library provides access to the Internet – you betcha
  • Who’s responsibility is it to police the Internet? Librarians? CIPA 1999 – hold librarians criminally liable in SC 2 different approaches SMCL vs. PLCMC – no right answer – local community needs tailor to fit E-rate funding for libraries tied to CIPA compliance – some libraries have chosen to forgo this funding based on their stance against censorship Examine CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom w/Proposed Revisions
  • Another service response
  • Information Literacy is key to individual’s understanding that everything that is written has some inherent bias of some sort as we are all human and we all have conscious or subconscious biases based on our upbringing, level of education, etc. By helping our customers become information literate we are supporting their freedom to know
  • Access to information is key with this service response
  • Celebrate the diversity of everyone in the community – foster better trust and collaboration and appreciation of everyone’s differences
  • David McCullough, wrote 1776 and a wonderful biography of Benjamin Franklin. Here is his view…
  • In closing I’d like to thank you for your time…


  • 1. Intellectual Freedom Michael Lambert Prepared for LIS 615 Collection Management
  • 2. Retro spective
  • 3.
  • 4.
    • O rigin
    • D issemination
    • A cquisition
    • P roperties
    • C lassification
    • O rganization
    • S election
    • R etrieval
    • I nterpretation
    • U tilization
  • 5. Definition: Intellectual Freedom
    • Main Entry: in·tel·lec·tu·al : free·dom
    • Pronunciation: in-tə-lek-chə-wəl, -chəl, -shwəl, -chü(-ə)l frē-dəm
    • Function: noun
    • Date: 20th century
    • 1 : of the or relating to free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations 2 : engaged in activity requiring the promotion and protection of an informed citizenry
  • 6.
    • “ The Public Library asserts its right and duty to keep on its shelves a representative selection of books on all subjects of interest to its readers and not prohibited by law, including books on all sides of controversial questions”
  • 7.
  • 8.  
  • 9.
  • 10.
  • 11. Statement of Concern
  • 12. Case Study
  • 13.
  • 14.
  • 15. Introspection
    • How are you going to uphold and/or celebrate our profession’s commitment to Intellectual Freedom?
    • How can you balance your own personal beliefs with your duty to serve your community?
  • 16.
  • 17.  
  • 18.  
  • 19. Stimulate Imagination : Reading, Viewing, and Listening for Pleasure
    • Residents who want materials to enhance their leisure time will find what they want, when and where they want them, and will have the help they need to make choices from among the options.
  • 20. Community’s Reading Room
  • 21.
    • Incumbent must demonstrate the ability to analyze collection coverage and needs from a variety of perspectives
    • Incumbent exercises experienced judgment and knowledge of the theories and principles of librarianship
    • Factors as publication patterns, availability, budgetary concerns as well as the needs of many constituencies
  • 22. Connect to the Online World: Public Internet Access
    • The library continues to play a critical role in providing access to computers and the online world.
    • The library provides over 1100 public computers to the public; these were used over 1.3 million times last year.
  • 23. Filtering internet
  • 24. Satisfy Curiosity: Lifelong Learning
    • Residents will have the resources they need to explore topics of personal interest and continue to learn throughout their lives.
  • 25. Understand How to Find, Evaluate, and Use Information: Information Fluency
    • Residents will know when they need information to resolve an issue or answer a question and will have the skills to search for, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information to meet their needs.
  • 26. Make Informed Decisions: Health, Wealth, and Other Life Choices
    • Residents will have the resources they need to identify and analyze risks, benefits, and alternatives before making decisions that affect their lives.
  • 27. Be an Informed Citizen : Local, National, and World Affairs
    • Residents will have the information they need to support democracy, to fulfill civic responsibilities, and fully participate
    • in decision-making for their communities.
  • 28. Welcome to the United States: Services for New Immigrants
    • New immigrants will have information on citizenship, English Language Learning (ELL), employment, public schooling, health and safety, available social services, and any other topics that they need to participate successfully in American life. 
  • 29. Celebrate Diversity: Cultural Awareness
    • Residents will have programs and services that promote appreciation and understanding of their personal heritage and the heritage of others in the community.
  • 30.
  • 31. Questions? mlambert @