Milo Yiannopoulos’ actions have stirred conversations in the library community, surrounding free speech, student rights and collection development. Three intellectual freedom fighters — our OIF director, a reference librarian and a library director — offer their perspectives on “the Milo situation.”
We are often asked why we have libraries in the age of Google. We just have been given the perfect opportunity to prove our worth. Will we open the discussion and grab it?
How does an intellectual freedom fighter deal with someone like Milo Yiannopoulos? Does the First Amendment guarantee a forum for every kind of speech?
Yiannopoulos had, and still has, the right to say whatever he wishes. But he’ll have to live with the consequences when the audience he courted just doesn’t find him funny anymore.
Forbidden Culture Week 2016 was curated and hosted by librarians, but it explored issues far beyond traditional libraries. There were 30 events during the week that explored writing, music, art, and the internet, with events led by musicians, historians, scholars, librarians, and writers.
The role of libraries in preserving intellectual freedom, as well as the integrity of our collections and interactions we have with patrons, is based on critical thinking and clear-eyed reasoning, not the convenience of a hyperlink.
The Columbia Journalism Review recently discussed how the news media could learn a lot from librarians and the framework, and set of principles, we’ve developed for dealing with the onslaught of digital information. But the truth is that in a culture devoted to the free flow of information and free expression, we learn best when we learn from each other.
Librarians are simple creatures, for the most part. We want to uphold the First Amendment, provide access to information, find the right answer to an asked question, and maybe recommend someone a good book. We are committed to education, accessibility, intellectual freedom, innovation, and maybe cardigans.
Far more than just “keepers of the printed book” (our original job description), we are now, perhaps more than ever, guardians of our teens’ emotional as well as intellectual needs. A large part of our job responsibility is to provide a safe space, a blanket of warmth and comfort, a plethora of intellectual and emotional resources to the young adults we serve.
At a Des Moines Public Schools School Board meeting last month, board members wore black armbands to honor the legacy of students’ right to free expression, including the right to peaceful political protest. The armbands were a visual link from the recent student walkouts and protests in Des Moines and around the country back to the landmark 1969 Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District Supreme Court decision that has forever tied Des Moines to the issue of students’ rights.