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Sept/Oct Guest Editor, Helen R. Adams

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A former school librarian and technology coordinator in Wisconsin, Helen R. Adams is currently an online instructor for Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, chair of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee, and AASL liaison to the Freedom to Read Foundation Board. She is the coauthor of Privacy in the 21st Century: Issues for Public, School, and Academic Libraries  (Libraries Unlimited, 2005) and author of Ensuring Intellectual Freedom and Access to Information in the School Library Media Program (Libraries Unlimited, 2008).



KNOWLEDGE QUEST: What does the term “intellectual freedom online” mean to you, and why is it such an important issue for school librarians?

HELEN ADAMS: The American Library Association defines “intellectual freedom” as “the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” 1 There is no mention of the format of the information, only the right to search for and use the information.  When collections were primarily available in print and held physically within the library, each item was carefully selected based on the collection development policy. In a digital world, students are able to access items not selected by either a teacher or school librarian. The Wild West aspect of the Internet has led to the widespread use of filters that limit what students may access.

Although book censorship continues, both with challenges to classroom and school library resources, the new battleground for access to information by minors has moved online. More than 10 years after the passage of the CIPA, students, teachers, and school librarians in many schools are frustrated daily when they find legitimate educational websites blocked by filters. In many school districts filtering blocks student and teacher access to constitutionally protected speech; the filtering is so restrictive that it amounts to online censorship. The fight also extends to use of Web 2.0 tools. There must be a balance between minors’ First Amendment right to receive constitutionally protected information, and their right to free expression. The reality is that there is Internet content that is obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.

KNOWLEDGE QUEST: What unique information or insights about intellectual freedom online can readers expect to take away from the Sept/Oct issue of Knowledge Quest?

HELEN ADAMS: I want to highlight one document that may have passed unnoticed in school librarian’s busy professional lives — “Minors and Internet Interactivity: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.” Based on the perceived need for support for the use of interactive Web tools by minors both in schools and in their personal Web use, the ALA Council approved a new interpretation to the Library Bill of Rights. Within the issue there are four articles by practicing school library professionals —Barbara Stripling; Connie Williams; Melissa Johnston; and Holly Anderton, a young adult services librarian — that view different aspects of this new interpretation. Check out both the article and the new interpretation to gain support for the use of Web 2.0 tools in schools.

Additionally, this issue includes an interview with the Michael Gras, chief of technology, and Scott Floyd, an instructional technologist in the White Oak Independent School District, White Oak, Texas.

They provide insights into how CIPA’s requirements can be satisfied while meeting the instructional and educational needs of faculty and students. The two portray a positive, commonsense working relationship between technology staff and instructional staff that benefits students’ learning and teachers’ instruction.

1 American Library Association. “Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A.” Web. 22 October 2010.

For more of Helen’s thoughts on intellectual freedom online,  read her blog post on the AASL blog.