Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Is Intellectual Freedom?

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

I've spoken of intellectual freedom several times over the course of writing this blog, but I don't think I've explained it properly. Intellectual freedom is a core value for librarians. As defined by the American Library Association, intellectual freedom advocates "the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment". Intellectual freedom encompasses things like censorship, internet rights, and privacy in the library. ALA asserts that any publicly funded library, including public, academic, special, and school libraries, should uphold the values of intellectual freedom.

But exactly does that mean? It means that when you walk into a library you can expect to find materials collected without regard to race, gender, sexuality, age, etc. You can expect to able to use the internet for your own purposes (as long as it isn't hurting or violating anyone as per the Children's Internet Protection Act). You can expect the library staff not to reveal any information about you or the materials you checked out without a signed search warrant. Intellectual freedom means that when you step into a library, there are no judgments. No one is going to stop you from reading, watching, listening, or checking out materials. Your privacy will be protected to the best the librarian's ability.

Librarians are on your side; they are on the front lines protecting your rights every day. So celebrate banned books week by reading banned books. Share how distasteful you find censorship with everyone around you. Advocate for the library, librarians, and for banned books. But most of all, don't ban books!!

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