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Introduction to Intellectual Freedom in Libraries


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Intro to intellectual freedom in libraries with a focus on public libraries in Massachusetts.

Published in: Education
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Introduction to Intellectual Freedom in Libraries

  1. 1. Brains In Their Heads
  2. 2. Stop! That book is censored! The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins The Koran Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. 3. Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; butunlike charity, it should end there. --Clare Booth Luce
  4. 4. The Foundation ofIntellectual freedom “Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances.” The First Amendment, Constitution of the United States
  5. 5. How does the First Amendmentapply to libraries? Public libraries, schools and colleges are governmental agencies. Even in the more structured school environment, students retain substantial rights. States can’t restrict the flow of information more than the federal government. States can provide greater freedoms.
  6. 6. Libraries can limit speech By time By place By manner Restrictions should be content-neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.
  7. 7. What about young people? Children have lesser but still significant rights. Speech can’t be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas that a legislative body thinks is unsuitable for them. Reno v ACLU (1997) Restrictions put into place to protect young people cannot be so broad as to limit adults’ rights to protected material.
  8. 8. What’s protected? Nearly everything
  9. 9. What’s not protected? Slander Fighting words Libel Obscene material Child pornography / material that is “harmful to minors”
  10. 10. What’s obscenity? A jury or courtmust decide that: The average person would find the work as a whole appeals to the prurient interest. The work depicts sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law. The work lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Miller v. California (1973)
  11. 11. What’s pornography? “Pornography” has no legal meaning. Child pornography is information, usually pictures, depicting minors in a sexually explicit manner.
  12. 12. What’s “harmful to minors”? Material that appeals to the prurient interests of children. Material that is offensive to children. Material that has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value to children. Nearly every state provides some protections for libraries using such material for educational purposes.
  13. 13. Harmful to minorsIt shall also be a defense in any prosecution under thissection if the evidence proves that the defendant was a bonafide school, museum or library, or was acting in the course ofhis employment as an employee of such organization or of aretail outlet affiliated with and serving the educationalpurpose of such organization. /Chapter272/Section28
  14. 14. ConfidentialityThat part of the records of a public library whichreveals the identity and intellectual pursuits of aperson using such library shall not be a publicrecord as defined by clause Twenty-sixth ofsection seven of chapter four.
  15. 15. Public libraries Serve the entire community, so should reflect all points of view. Protect the right of the parent, and only the parent, to decide what his child will see or view. Staff should be familiar with state “harmful-to-minor” statutes. If a law is broken in the library, it should be reported to the police.
  16. 16. Intellectual Freedom in libraries issupported by Policies passed by the library’s governance board, who represent the community. The Library Bill of Rights. “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” By staff, who have a professional responsibility to provide access to information.
  17. 17. Librarians care about access toinformation and… Ensure that collection development policies reflect community needs. Build collections based on professional criteria. Encourage families to evaluate electronic information. Understand that young people need access to all kinds of information.
  18. 18. Who’s responsible for safety in theinformation age? We all are.• Families need to communicate with kids about values and responsibility.• Librarians should help kids and families toward information literacy.• Information literacy and critical skills are more important than ever before.
  19. 19. Brains in Their Heads? Youll look up and down streets. Look em over with care. About some you will say, "I dont choose to go there." With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, Youre too smart to go down any not-so-good street. --Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places Youll Go!