Plug: Intellectual freedom: Fundamentals and Current Events

Just a quick note, I am teaching a one-day continuing education class at Simmons’ Mount Holyoke campus on Sunday afternoon, March 30th. The topic is Intellectual Freedom, basically providing the foundations of the idea and then going over current topic type issues that we’ve seen in libraryland lately. Here’s the official description. If you’re in need of CE credits or just want a refresher, feel free to sign up.

The importance of intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of modern librarianship in the US, and yet for many people is only understood as an abstract idea. This workshop will cover the foundations of intellectual freedom in American librarianship and provide concrete examples of how the concept applies to today’s library environment.

We will look at the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and state library privacy laws as well as legislation which abridges the freedoms of library workers and library users. We will discuss the thorny issues that arise when intellectual freedom principles conflict with local practices and cultures and ways to unpack and address those issues. Social software and its implications for intellectual freedom in libraries will be another facet we will address. Participants will gain an understanding of ALA’s work laying down the foundation for intellectual freedom and leave with concrete examples of IF in action in today’s libraries.

federal judge rules on students’ religious rights re: books

Notable federal district decision from a week or so ago concerning a student/parent objection to a book that had homoesexual [well, same-sex couple] characters. The court upheld a lower court dismissal of a lawsuit by a family climaing their religious rights were being violated when kids read books involving “positive portrayals of families headed by same-sex parents and same-sex marriage, including the frequently challenged children’s book, King and King.” The court stated that reading the books is not the same as being “indoctrinated” into affirming the choices the book’s characters make, or are evidencing. It’s an interesting challenge and an interesting, and to my mind positive, response with the upshot being “you do not have the right to not be offended”.

The First Circuit rejected the parents’ indoctrination claims. It held that there is no First Amendment free exercise right to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations. It also held that public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, especially when the school does not require that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them.

You can read the full opinion here and some backstory on the controversy that sparked these claims here and here. Keep in mind that this book challenge happened in Massachusetts, a state where same sex marriages are legal and where a “1993 state law directed school systems to teach about different kinds of families and the harm of prejudice.”

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is 40 years old today

Happy Birthday OIF! I will be teaching a half-day continuing education seminar at Simmons on Intellectual Freedom and I have been digging through their extensive website for primary documentation and remembering just how extensive and excellent it is. Intellectual freedom principles were one of the major things that brought me to librarianship and THE thing responsible for my sticking with it. I am proud of the work the ALA does to support intellectual freedom, though the challenges are still coming far too quickly for my tastes and I worry about ALA’s ability to keep up with IF topics in a digital world that they still don’t seem to quite understand. One of the things I do on Wikipedia is keep the Library Bill of Rights free from soapboxing and point-of-view hectoring. It’s a tougher job than you might think.

Banned Books Week is This Week

And while I bitch and complain about the name “Banned Books Weekevery year [and the BBW acronym just continues to amuse] and think that “Free People Read Freely ®” is some sort of Orwellian catchphrase, there are some people doing some nifty things for BBW on the web. I’m not sure what happened to the logo thing that ALA was doing last year, I sort of liked it. The Office of Intellectual Freedom blog entry has some of the best information about how ALA is moving in to social spaces to discuss and promote BBW.

Feel free to include other projects in the comments here, this is just a few links I enjoyed and thought merited further attention.