Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ALA & Information Policy

In 1940, ALA created the Intellectual Freedom Committee to help protect and promote the Library Bill of Rights, which is essential to libraries (Lorenzen. 2009). The Library Bill of Rights helps libraries create their own information policy and it helps support libraries when they are under scrutiny by patrons or others in the community. This is especially important when libraries are in the negative limelight.

Libraries can be seen as negative when someone disagrees with the Internet filtering policy that is not in use or may be filtering too little or not well enough. They can also be seen as negative when a community member believes that a book at the library is harmful and should not be present in the library.

By giving libraries the Library Bill of Rights, ALA sets up policy for individual libraries and creates a support mechanism for when libraries do come under attack. For example, section 2 of the Bill of Rights says to “reject censoring based on doctrinal disapproval of content” and to also “select materials with wide array of viewpoints”. ALA believes that by selecting materials with a wide variety of viewpoints, the knowledge seeker/ reader becomes a well rounded person and will be able to make decisions based on the knowledge gathered from these many viewpoints.

In sections 3 and 4, the Bill of Rights says to “reject censorship” and to “cooperate with others to fight abridgement of free speech” ( Lorenzen. 2009). The Intellectual Freedom Manual, which was created by the Intellectual Freedom Committee, says “We trust Americans to recognize propaganda, and to reject it. We do not believe they need the help of censors to assist them in this task. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.” (ALA. 1989)

However, in a world where parents want to protect their children from the sights and sounds of a violent world, libraries seem to come under attack more and more. It is a parent’s right to protect their children and raise them as they see fit. It is also a parent’s right to monitor what their child watches on TV, sites they visit on the Internet and what they read. ALA encourages parents to interact with their children by setting ruling and not only teaching their children but themselves by selecting books with their children and showing them how to safely access the Internet and surf websites.

“We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”(ALA. 1989)

American Library Association (2009). FAQ About Libraries, Children, and the Internet. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/wo/woissues/techinttele/internetsafety/faq.cfm#alafilter

American Library Association (1989).Intellectual Freedom Manual, Third Edition,
Compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.cni.org/docs/infopols/ALA.html

Lorenzen, M. (2009). Information Policy as Library Policy: Intellectual Freedom.


Unknown said...

Although I think libraries and librarians adhere to the ALA Information policies to varying degrees, I do think it is very important that ALA has taken a distinct stance on it's ideas concerning information policy. I'm glad that you brought up this topic!

Andrea DeHart said...

Even though I sometimes feel that the ALA's stance of different topics is a little cut and dry (no censorship/parents watch their own kids) for example, I do believe that the purpose for the ALA is important. Especially the fact that the ALA is there to support libraries when it comes under scrutiny of patrons or other entities. Thanks for sharing!

Virginia Pierce said...

I think the ALA's Library Bill of Rights certainly helps libraries and gives them guidelines to follow, and I think that's good. I do whole-heartedly agree that libraries should have a wide array of books, so that the individual becomes "more well-rounded" as Amanda put it. Nice blog on the ALA and information policy!

Jillyan said...

From some of the readings I have done through 6010 and my blog topic of CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) I appreciate the ALA Bill of Rights, however am wondering when it is going to need some updating. At lot of issues arise between keeping children safe and censorship, even more now with the internet. Also, the ALA Bill or Rights seems to contradict CIPA, leaving librarians, and myself, to wonder what credibility the Bill of Rights has if it can so easily be bullied by the government.

Michael Graulich said...

Good job-I wonder how much protection the ALA Bill of Rights really gives libraries. It is not a legally binding document, is it? It seems like it is more of a statement of best practice for libraries, but would offer no defense in a court of law. Conversely, would a library that rejects portions or whole of the Bill be subject to any kind of penalty? If the community attacks the library over an issue, it seems like the Bill of Rights would not afford much protection, as many people outside the library world could dismiss it as a piece of scholarly philosophy intended only for its chosen audience and having little to do with the concerns being voiced.

Amanda H. said...


It is my understanding that the ALA Bill of Rights is not a legal document but more of a guideline. After all, you are correct in stating there are libraries out there that disagree with parts of the B.o.R by censoring. I don't think that the B.o.R would give protection, but I am pretty sure that the ALA and the committee would help in any way they possibly can by sending representatives to the library under scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

I really like how you covered this topic! Like Jillyan, I also wonder if the Bill will need to be re-vamped given the surge of technology, and the availability of all kinds of information that the Internet, for better or for worse, provides...

Amanda H. said...

I agree! The Bill should be looked at and added to and revamped with all the technology happening in libraries.

HeidiJoGustad said...

"We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for them."

I really liked how this was worded. "What others think may be bad" for a person is so subjective. I think that in the not-so-distant future, library students might find themselves in a required sociology class before successful completion of their MLIS degree.

Holly said...

“We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”(ALA. 1989)

What a powerful statement! I guess typically I don't really think of libraries having that much power, but it can be true. What people fill their minds with has a HUGE impact on society!