Generally speaking, libraries and librarians are for intellectual freedom and access to information, and against censorship. Over the years we’ve touched on censorship a number of times here on the ILN blog, but it’s Banned Books Week in the USA at the moment so it’s timely to raise it again.
Statements on intellectual freedom are available from a number of library associations including ALIA (Australia) and JLA (Japan), although some rely on the IFLA statement to support their position and many others do not include a reference to intellectual freedom or censorship anywhere on their websites. The ALA (USA) has an Office of Intellectual Freedom and it is from here that the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week campaign is coordinated.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries [in the USA]. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. [source]
Banned Books Week is an opportunity for all of us working or studying in library and information related fields to stop and think about intellectual freedom, censorship and access to information and how that is reflected or managed in our organisations and our professional practices (or even by our governments).
Restricting someone’s right to read a particular book on grounds that it doesn’t suit someone else’s sense of right or wrong may seem trivial to some (particularly in countries where people die for the right to freedom of expression), but intellectual freedom is important “because the road to any other freedom begins with freeing one’s mind“.