Resolved: Become an Intellectual Freedom Champion in 2017

Advocacy, Diversity, Policies, Privacy

By: April Dawkins

Alongside your personal resolutions for 2017, consider making several professional goals related to intellectual freedom. School librarians often set professional goals at the start of the new school year each August; however, the start of a calendar year is also a great time to consider making new goals for all kinds of librarians. Below are a few suggested intellectual freedom goals (or resolutions) for librarians. I’ve included some questions to consider under each goal.

  1. Review your library’s policies for selection, reconsideration, building/space usage, and patron privacy
    1. When were the policies last updated?
    2. Do the policies reflect current trends and issues in libraries?
    3. Are all staff members aware of the policies and how they should be implemented?
  2. Review your library’s web presence to ascertain its security and protections for patron privacy
    1. What data does your circulation/automation system retain about patrons?
    2. How secure is that data?
    3. What are your library’s policies about official requests for patron data?
    4. Does your staff now how to handle requests for patron information?
  3. Subscribe to or follow a blog that challenges your assumptions
    1. Suggestion: Reading While White
  4. Begin a conversation at your library about meeting the needs of diverse patrons
    1. Who are your patrons?
    2. How does your library define diversity? (Here’s how the American Library Association defines diversity)
  5. Make a plan on how you handle challenges (both verbal and formal)
    1. What are your arguments?
    2. What resources are available?
    3. What items should be included in preparing a reconsideration packet?
  6. Identify your allies and create new ones
    1. Who in your community are supporters of the library?
    2. Who might be future supporters of the library if they are aware of your mission and goals?

Two of these goals/resolutions address diversity. Why should this be such a significant part of your plan for 2017? When examining the top 10 most frequently challenged books for 2015, the Office for Intellectual Freedom found that nine of them contained diverse content. If diverse content is being challenged, we need to be prepared to meet those challenges.

Turn this list into an action plan. What will you do? When will you do it? How will you do it? Most of these goals cannot be conducted in isolation. They require a team effort. 

This list is a great start to help us in our journey to becoming intellectual freedom champions. However, the most first step we can take is to recognize the challenges that occur in our libraries and in our communities. Then we must speak up to protect intellectual freedom when these infringements happen. Remaining silent is not an option.

April DawkinsApril Dawkins is currently a doctoral candidate in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. Her research focus for her doctoral dissertation is understanding the factors that influence decisions around selection in school libraries and the role of self-censorship. April is part of the NxtWave program funded by an IMLS grant, a national cohort of Ph.D. students whose focus is school librarianship. As a graduate teaching assistant with SLIS, April is teaching information literacy and young adult materials. Prior to her doctoral studies, April served as a high school media specialist in North Carolina for 15 years. She is also a past president of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. April also serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. Find her on Twitter @aprldwkns.

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