Is it unethical to charge library fines? The current landscape in public and other libraries shows that there’s no one way to handle it, but trends are moving in favor of patrons.
The Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) crafted a revision of the 1991 “Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.” The revision of the interpretation was broadly inclusive and transparent and was adopted by ALA Council. The revision did not establish any new right to conduct hate speech in libraries. ALA does not endorse hate groups and does not seek to normalize hate speech.
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.
“Beyond merely avoiding the exclusion of materials representing unorthodox or unpopular ideas, libraries should proactively seek to include an abundance of resources and programming representing the greatest possible diversity of genres, ideas, and expressions. A full commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion requires that library collections and programming reflect the broad range of viewpoints and cultures that exist in our world.”
BISAC headings have made their way into public and school libraries as well. A 2013 Knowledge Quest issue on the “Dewey Debate” provides a good intro to the “Dewey or don’t we” debate in school libraries, and many public libraries have made news for their move toward the “bookstore model,” what is often called a more patron-friendly approach than the Dewey Decimal System.
Although Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the regulation rescinded, a recent proposal and pilot program by New York to severely limit prisoners’ access to reading material raises serious question about prisoners’ right to read.
Do you like having equitable and open access to whatever you want to view online? Call your congressperson. Email. Write. Send a smoke signal. Let them know you support the free exchange of ideas and information. Let them know that you support intellectual freedom. Let them know that you support net neutrality.
Intellectual freedom provides our world with innovation: new technology, cures to diseases, new ways of providing food to starving communities. Intellectual freedom enriches culture. Answering the question, “why is intellectual freedom important” is something I am continuing to explore and think about.
Sometimes the inclusion of specific titles in those displays or the themes of the displays themselves can become points of controversy in our libraries.
ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released its list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2016, and as usual, the majority of books are for children and teens.