Intellectual Freedom in Practice

The post about intellectual freedom and equal access got me thinking of a couple of times I’ve actually personally dealt with this issue. Once, when I was working at a library at Adams County, a patron wanted to have the childrens’ book And Tango Makes Three banned because he was so upset that his kids had brought it home.I was surprised at how much compassion I showed for the man, even though I disagreed with him. I guided him through the complaint/appeal process surprisingly calmly, and I think that actually helped him to calm down too.

Also, as a used book buyer at the Tattered Cover, customers bring in books all the time that I find personally offensive (Conservative-leaning books that are anti-gay, or that assert that the ACLU is anti-American, etc.). After much soul searching I decided that a) The ACLU would tell me to buy even the anti-ACLU books, and that b) it’s not my business to decide what books we should make available to people.

Do you guys agree or disagree? Have you ever had any similar experiences?

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5 Responses to Intellectual Freedom in Practice

  1. I have no experience with defending intellectual freedom but applaud all those that have.

    Again, I would say that it is imperative to have policies in place – whether it is a library or book store.

    K. Yockey

  2. I haven’t had too much personal experience with this. I’ve had random comments at the circulation desk from people wondering why a book was in the collection or displeased with one. But I’ve never had anyone demand a book be removed. For the most part, I just end up listening and letting them vent.

    – J. Cox

  3. Allie B. says:

    Because I haven’t worked in a library since college, I haven’t had much hands-on experience with censorship. However, as a future information professional I feel strongly that we not censor anything. In Jody Howard’s Children’s Materials & Services class last fall we discussed censorship and how to deal with challenges to materials, and Jody’s recommendation was that librarians simply engage in conversation about the challenge, and told us that her experience has been that conversations tend to diffuse the conflict. Based on Jody’s many years of library experience, I think I will take her advice when faced with challenges to materials in the future.

  4. I have not had any personal experience with this but it is one of those ideas that I hold very high. Everyone thinks different and its a shame that most do not consider the needs and wants of others. There is more than this to consider; the idea that we cannot simply read people based on their books is very important. I am not religious but I own numerous religious texts because I am fascinated with studying them.

    Lucie B.

  5. The only experience I’ve had with this particular topic actually happened at my library, but it happened right before I started working there. The community that Woodbury serves is largely Hispanic, and we had a certain part of the collection that was actually very popular…the Novelas. For those of you who don’t know what Novelas are, they are slightly risque Spanish comics for adults. The occurrence that happened was that a particular patron was very offended by these Novelas, and thought they were too racy, so instead of complaining directly to the librarian, they actually moved the entire Novela collection from a high shelf in the adult area where they originally were located, to the bottom shelf of the children’s area. They then complained to the head administration of DPL, and said that there was inappropriate material being viewed by children at our library (due to the easily accessible location), and that it should be removed from our collection. Interesting approach right? The Novelas were kept at our branch for awhile, and the librarians ensured that they stayed in the adult area at a height that could not be reached by children. Interestingly enough, after Woodbury went through its’ bond renovations at the beginning of the year, the Novela collection magically disappeared. So it just goes to show, that even if you have a policy in place, it may not actually be followed properly.

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