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.
Librarians Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth recently launched an independent special project, Operation 451, which directly addresses several of the core principles of librarianship.
Safety pins’ degree of acceptance varies vastly, but the spirit behind wearing the pin remains generally consistent with sending a message of solidarity and identifying as an ally to the disenfranchised.
Interested in censorship? Freedom to read? Privacy? Are you a good writer? Creative? Engaging? Do you know how to balance text with graphics and hyperlinks? We’re looking for YOU!
For those of us in the Intellectual Freedom community, it’s easy to take the rattle of pitchforks at the gate as broad popular sentiment. But the truth is, the data prove, most Americans actually believe in, actually value, free speech. They just tend not to be so noisy about it.