Librarian Fundamentalism: Quintessential Censorship
As a follow up to my previous post about two librarians who used their power to keep two books off their shelves and out of the reach of overly curious high school students, I thought that I would post part of the the Library Bill of Rights:
I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
And now for an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, entitled "Diversity in Collection Development":
Throughout history, the focus of censorship has fluctuated from generation to generation. Books and other materials have not been selected or have been removed from library collections for many reasons, among which are prejudicial language and ideas, political content, economic theory, social philosophies, religious beliefs, sexual forms of expression, and other potentially controversial topics.
Some examples of censorship may include removing or not selecting materials because they are considered by some as racist or sexist; not purchasing conservative religious materials; not selecting materials about or by minorities because it is thought these groups or interests are not represented in a community; or not providing information on or materials from non-mainstream political entities.
Librarians may seek to increase user awareness of materials on various social concerns by many means, including, but not limited to, issuing bibliographies and presenting exhibits and programs. Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive, not exclusive, in collection development and in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all materials legally obtainable should be assured to the user, and policies should not unjustly exclude materials even if they are offensive to the librarian or the user. Collection development should reflect the philosophy inherent in Article II of the Library Bill of Rights: “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
Note that this clearly states that a failure to "select" is a form of censorship. Note that minority viewpoints should be especially protected.
The librarians who banned the books discussed in my previous post used the same vilification tactics that many in the past have used to justify their censorship. What is clear to anyone who follows these issues is that this involves highly controversial topics. Both sides accuse the other of distorting the facts and both sides accuse the other of politicizing the issues. This issue is at the heart of the culture wars. This is precisely the situation where librarians need to be on the side of open debate and discussion and free access to alternative viewpoints- even viewpoints with which they disagree.