Wedding Cake

Wedding cake warning: policies & decisions must be content neutral

Many libraries have meeting rooms or public spaces that can be used for speakers and events, and this case reinforces the importance of making content neutral decisions regarding who can use these spaces and what they can use them for. Decisions that are not content (or viewpoint) neutral risk legal problems for the library. This also highlights the importance of a clearly defined meeting room and events policy, both to guide internal decision making and to allow staff to have clear and specific viewpoint neutral policy-based reasons if they choose to deny a request to use library space. 

logo from the Great America Read, attribution to PBS

Great American Read’s List of 100 “Best-loved” Novels Includes More Than 20 Banned Authors

My hope is that the Great American Read series and accompanying library programming across the country may draw in some of those Americans who did not read a book last year. Perhaps they will even read one of the banned books on the list and gain an appreciation for the importance of the right to read and intellectual freedom. Either way, I am thrilled to see so many banned and challenged books on a list of America’s favorite reads. My fellow readers, keep reading books that challenge the status quo and make you consider multiple perspectives.  

Parents & Intellectual Curiosity

While parents absolutely can, and should, be aware of what their children read and are exposed to and be actively engaged in helping students process what they are reading, I also believe books are a safe way for children to learn and expand their perspectives and horizons and challenge their own preexisting world views. Parents can play a critical role in helping them do so.

Mein Kampf Cover

Hitler and Censorship: Is there Value in ‘Mein Kampf’?

I think the recent headlines regarding a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust just serve to reinforce how important it is to continue to allow access to and discussion of Mein Kampf. Only by remembering what happened and by studying Hitler’s mindset and psychology can we understand – as much as is possible – what happened and thereby try to prevent it from happening again. And any consideration of banning Mein Kampf should also consider the fact that book banning (and burning) was an early part of Hitler’s reign, too.  

Librarians Lead Against Censorship Gina Schaarschmidt

Defending Books in a Middle School: an Interview with Librarian Gina Schaarschmidt

Part of the Librarians Lead Against Censorship blog series. In 2017 Academy School District 20’s Challenger Middle School Library faced a challenge to the book Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. A parent challenged the book, objecting to language, alcohol use, violence and sexual descriptions. I had a chance to talk to Gina T. Schaarschmidt, the Challenger Middle School librarian, about the challenge and her experience working with the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

free speech and protest

The Role of Libraries in Free Campus Speech

Perhaps the most important thing librarians can do is to continue to be a part of the dialogue on how we manage these issues and balance competing interests to ensure intellectual freedom and inclusion, and to be mindful of these issues in program scheduling, meeting space usage, and collection development choices.

Created by Lisa Hooper reads "My father had spent every penny on his books. They were his life. After the bonfire, I could tell that something had happened to his mind." From Knuth, Libricide: The Regime Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the 20th Century.

Librarians as Cultural Warriors & Protectors

Likewise, it says a great deal about the importance of librarians, library paraprofessionals, museum curators, archivists, educators, and anyone else involved in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and protection of intellectual freedom. Knuth’s book demonstrates that librarians can be active participants in protecting cultural history, or they can be twisted to add legitimacy to the regime’s propaganda.

Compelled Speech

Compelled Speech in the New Year

In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to address two questions regarding compelled speech: whether requiring a cakeshop owner to create a cake for a same-sex wedding violates the First Amendment, and whether requiring pregnancy crisis centers to post information on abortions violates the First Amendment. The court’s decisions may have far reaching consequences for compelled speech.