IST 511: Day 4 – Intellectual Freedom

Today’s guest speakers focused much of their lectures on how to use your library’s space. Tina Nabinger, Lesley Pease, and Jean Armour Polly all gave great examples on how to better use the space that you have to best connect with patrons and ensure that their experience of the library is both appealing and useful. All three librarians discussed some obstacles they faced when first trying to properly structure their space. I found Tina particularly interesting because she is a school media specialist and she very creatively reorganized her library, taking into account even something as seemingly unimportant as the chairs; as she pointed out to the class, you can’t ask kindergarteners to push in their chairs if the chairs are too heavy for them to handle. Obviously, this wouldn’t leave said patrons with a positive experience.

In the afternoon, we discussed privacy, intellectual freedom, ethics and challenges, all of which we will face as librarians. It seems that working in a school in the age of technology is incredibly challenging when it comes to handling all of these things. The general message the ALA sends out is that censorship is bad. This seems like a very reasonable and rational apprach considering that it is our job as a librarian to provide patrons with information – censoring this in any way may prevent them from making a fully educated decision.

On the other hand, it is not appropriate to keep a copy of Lolita in an elementary school library. I feel that this is a very difficult road to navigate: how much self-censorship is too much? Should students be allowed access to any material on the internet? Does the school’s administration have the right to actually ban a book from the library?

Personally, I know that the this pull between believing in ALA guidelines and wanting to provide access to anyone who wants it and knowing that I am responsible for ensuring a nurturing and caring envrionment for students to explore their interests outside of a classroom is going to be difficult for me. I think today’s discussion is going to have to sink in a bit more before I can make up my mind on what my own standards will be.

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