Library forum for information, ideas—October 12, 2012
If you’ve visited the library in the last few weeks, you’ve hopefully noticed a fantastic display by a few of our staff members on banned books. The display is in honor of Banned Books Week, an entire week dedicated to the subject of censorship and intellectual freedom. If you haven’t yet seen the display, I encourage you to visit the front windows of the library and learn more about why some books have been deemed “controversial.”
The term “banned” is sometimes confusing. Most of the books on the American Library Association’s regular list of “challenged” titles are just that, challenged, not actually banned. But the use of the word “banned” indicates that somewhere in our land of free, someone has argued to block another person’s access to that book.
Libraries and in particular, public libraries, have long supported the belief that information wants to be free and that one of the purposes of the library is to provide access to information, without prejudice. Because I can’t paraphrase any better than the actual document can make clear, I present The Library Bill of Rights, originally adopted in 1939 by The American Library Association:
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 that 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.
I see the continued importance of this Bill of Rights everyday in our library. We serve every individual in our community, as long as they abide by our policies. We do not discriminate anyone’s right to access based on their age, economic status or religion. We include books in our collection that reflect both sides of the upcoming election. We collect books that some consider classics and some consider trash. We encourage families to decide what is appropriate for themselves.
I want my children to grow up in a community where all viewpoints are respected, even if they’re not accepted. I want my children to be able to research history and form their own views on elections and political parties. I want a future where my children will be exposed to many different ideas and dreams so that they can make a life for themselves of their own choosing. That’s why I work in a library, and that’s why I protect intellectual freedom.