In spite of her well-deserved celebrity status as a librarian, Pearl emphasizes that she is first and foremost a reader. She loves reading, writing, and recommending books to readers of all ages. With her wide ranging knowledge of the written word, she definitely does not shy away from recommending a diverse and varied list of books.
Whether you post the calendars in your office where you might pique a visitor’s interest or use them to schedule tasks with students or reference desk shifts, you are raising awareness of intellectual freedom. You are starting conversations.
As curators of collections, authorities on access, or just plain bookworms, we have an important role to play right now. If intellectual freedom is based on exploring, changing, improving through the discovery of new ideas then we have an opportunity, because of our particular skill set, to help shift the conversation.
We have an obligation to understand the inherent weaknesses of social media environments and actively educate about them. It might serve us to remember that at one point the implantation of OPACs’, or the migration of journals into databases, or the growth of digital archives as dynamic new platforms of publishing and dissemination also seemed foreign to our mission. Our profession is constantly evolving and social media has become a maelstrom.
The attacks on the press are about lockouts, manipulation and threats. Lockouts are bad for the free flow of information. Manipulation is (and always has been) a two-way street … but threats? Threats now shape our public discourse, and again, to belabor the point over and over, this is not normal.
As chair of the Texas Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee for 2016-2017, part of my responsibilities included planning IF-related programming for the TLA Annual Conference in San Antonio in April 2017. The committee had decided that we wanted some basic instruction on what intellectual freedom is and why it’s important in our daily library lives.
More than 500 librarians and library supporters attended Library Legislative Day in Washington D.C. on May 1-2. With the Institute of Library and Museum Services threatened for elimination with President Trump’s ‘skinny budget,’ this year’s event saw more attendees at Library Legislative Day than any previous year. This year, I was fortunate to attend as a member of the New Mexico delegation.
While intellectual freedom issues can quickly become complex and nuanced, introduction to the ideals doesn’t necessarily have to be. A simpler introduction may stick easier than an overly complicated one.
On the EPA’s website of the Office of Science and Technology, the word ‘science’ has been removed from its mission statement. At the University Of California San Diego, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan, scientists are voicing their concerns about their ability to do their jobs threatened with draconian budget cuts at the Federal level, and the specter of vanishing data sets in Federal repositories. Neither has become a reality, but awareness and action are needed on both fronts.
Alongside your personal resolutions for 2017, consider making several professional goals related to intellectual freedom.