Article II of the Code of Ethics states:
We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
These core principles of the library profession are based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution providing for the right to freedom of expression. In addition, the Library Bill of Rights addresses these issues in more detail. (This document and the Code of Ethics are reproduced in the Appendix at the end of this course. They are also found on the American Library Association web site.)
What exactly do we mean when we talk about intellectual freedom and censorship, and what is their impact on libraries?
On its web site, the American Library Association offers the following definitions:
"Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas. It is a core value of the library profession and a cornerstone of democracy."
"Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes." (Reproduced with permission of the ALA.)
How do these concepts affect the day-to-day activities in your library? Libraries play a leading role in promoting intellectual freedom by making a variety of kinds of information available in an organized manner. In addition, libraries support literacy and the individual's right to read. While there have always been challenges to intellectual freedom (banning books has been practiced for centuries), electronic media, especially the Internet, open up new areas where intellectual freedom can be compromised.
Challenges to library resources, restricted access to materials, and Internet access are all intellectual freedom and censorship issues that libraries face frequently. The next section will discuss these issues.
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