By: Allyson Mower
ALA Editions published a book of essays in 2016 by Rick Anderson called Libraries, Leadership, and Scholarly Communication. The author also has a new book out called Scholarly Communication: What Everyone Needs to Know. I’ve worked with Rick Anderson for nearly a decade now and have read many of his scholarly communication-related articles. I wanted to take the chance to read other essays that I may have missed, especially those about libraries and leadership in general.
I read the essays as well as the new book with an eye towards concepts related to intellectual freedom. Libraries, Leadership, and Scholarly Communication was the most relevant to intellectual freedom, but Scholarly Communication: What Everyone Needs to Know provided good background on how specialized publishing works in academia and the role of academic freedom within scholarly communication.
The preface in Libraries, Leadership, and Scholarly Communication offers an overarching question specific to intellectual freedom that seems worth mentioning: “What are we, as librarians, willing to give up in order for our patrons (and our colleagues) to have meaningful intellectual freedom?” (pg. xii). It was useful to have that question posed at the beginning of the book to help shape how I read the rest of it and also to continually consider the question on a daily basis. In addition to the preface, these three essays stood out to me as having the most to say about intellectual freedom:
#7 How Sacred Are Our Patrons’ Privacy Rights?
#11 Interrogating the American Library Association’s “Core Values” Statement
#17 You Might Be a Zealot If…
Essay #7 provides an example in direct response to the overarching question. It discusses privacy in the digital age and what should happen when software platforms that librarians engage with on behalf of their patrons do not provide sufficient privacy protections. The essay makes a strong case for prioritizing privacy over content which can be a difficult consideration for librarians to make.
Essay #11 addresses the overarching question by digging deeper into our profession’s core values. I appreciated how the author helped make the Core Values Statement more manageable by differentiating between fundamental and subordinate principles. I especially liked how the essay helped me think of the crucial connection between access, intellectual freedom, and service.
Essay #17 discusses the overarching question in context of working with fellow librarians and colleagues, but I think the concepts involved could also apply to intellectual freedom situations involving patrons. The essay details “symptoms of zealotry” which I found useful as a tool to respond to those with strongly held opinions. This essay, as a type of toolkit, could be useful for anyone dealing with intellectual freedom or censorship complaints.
Even though they’re not highlighted here, the other essays in the book are well written and useful. If you’re looking for perspectives on leadership as it pertains to daily library operations, check out Libraries, Leadership, and Scholarly Communication.
If you’re looking for something more specific to academic freedom, Scholarly Communication: What Everyone Needs to Know provides very useful definitions. Chapter 2, “Who Are The Scholars and Why do they Communicate” discusses academic freedom in terms of tenure and describes it as the “justification” for protected employment. This protection is for the purpose of preserving academic freedom, defined as “the freedom to say, write, and teach according to one’s beliefs and one’s professional judgement” (pg. 37). The use of the word ‘belief’ is interesting here and gets at what I think the author’s overall intention of the book is and that is to convey the very individualized nature of scholarly communication and academic freedom within a complex and layered system.
It’s worth spending time becoming familiar with the many components of the scholarly communication system especially from the viewpoint of librarianship and academic freedom and the author makes it easy and enjoyable. Other sections of the book cover the role of copyright, academic libraries, and university presses–all topics relevant to how intellectual freedom functions in our society.
I highly recommend both of these books to those looking for new approaches to leadership in libraries and useful definitions of intellectual and academic freedom.
Allyson Mower, MA, MLIS is Head of Scholarly Communication & Copyright at the University of Utah Marriott Library. She’s very curious about curiosity, what drives people to uncover information, and how libraries of all types create demand for knowledge. As a tenured faculty member, she researches the history of academic freedom — a kind of intellectual freedom — and the history of authorship and scholarly communication at the institution. She provides the U of U community and the general public with information, tools, and services related to both copyright and publishing. Allyson was a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2008, was nominated as a 2012 Society for Scholarly Publishing Emerging Leader, and served as the U of U Academic Senate President in 2014. Find her on Twitter @allysonmower.