Intellectual Freedom Core Competencies

June 19, 2002


ALA IFC Intellectual Freedom in Library Schools

In light of its interest in providing librarians and others with continuing education programs on intellectual freedom, the IFC mailed a survey in the winter of 2001 to all library school admissions officers. It asked if and how intellectual freedom concepts are taught in library schools. At the 2001 Annual Conference, the committee reviewed preliminary data obtained from this survey.

Since the 2002 Midwinter meeting, the subcommittee (Barbara Jones, chair, and Pat Scales) overseeing the “Intellectual Freedom in Library Schools” project:

  • Called the library schools that did not respond to the initial survey;
  • Contacted the research department at the University of Illinois—Urbana to ask for assistance in compiling the survey results and follow-up information; and
  • Prepared a document for the IFC to review at this Conference.

At the 2002 Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the IFC

  • Accepted IFRT’s intellectual freedom core competencies guidelines as a draft document on which to seek reaction in the next survey; and
  • Approved steps to execute a more detailed survey and analyze results more conclusively.

Below is the draft competencies adopted by the IFRT at the 2002 Annual Conference and accepted by the ALA IFC as a draft document on which to seek reaction in the next survey (described above).

Intellectual Freedom Competencies for Students

Content Knowledge

  1. The student knows the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, understands how the application of that amendment has changed over time, and understands the role of the amendment in providing a core justification for free access to library resources.
  2. The student knows about relevant court cases and understands key legal concepts that apply to library policy.
  3. The student knows about the history of intellectual freedom within the American Library Association. He or she understands key ALA policy documents related to intellectual freedom, and is aware of the responsibilities of professional librarians with regard to intellectual freedom.
  4. The student knows about the core professional writings related to intellectual freedom.

Communication Skills

  1. The student can articulate the philosophy of a professional librarian in respect to intellectual freedom, and explain this to different audiences.
  2. The student has the ability to write clear policies that reflect knowledge of library principles and take the legal context of libraries into account.
  3. The student is able to respond effectively to challenges both verbally and in writing.
  4. The student understands how to present relevant message points in a press interview.
  5. The student has the ability to plan local events that educate the public and library staff about the First Amendment.
  6. The student understands how to build local coalitions for support of library positions

Intellectual Freedom Competencies for Professional Librarians

Content Knowledge

The working librarian actively monitors a broad range of First Amendment issues within and outside the field of librarianship in order to maintain a breadth and depth of understanding that can inform the professional environment.

Communication Skills

The working librarian

  • Distinguishes his or her personal philosophy from the professional responsibilities within the current working environment.
  • Evaluates existing policies for clarity and soundness in intellectual freedom principles and submits written recommendations as needed to library administration. Additionally, the working librarian writes procedures to facilitate the implementation of the policy in a manner both efficacious and respectful of differing opinions.
  • Has the ability to develop and deliver clear and cogent presentations concerning intellectual freedom to distinctly different audiences. Additionally, the working librarian is able to market these presentations for community outreach.
  • Reviews regularly his or her media interview skills and practices with colleagues in mock interviews.
  • Participates in staff training that reiterates the appropriate responses to verbal challenges within the context of the library’s policy and procedures with regard to challenges
  • Responds to challenges appropriately by incorporating good customer service techniques of listening, empathy and feedback and makes suggestions such as: recommending the addition of material to expand viewpoints, offers to locate materials more appropriate to the patron’s point of view.
  • Participates in formulating the library’s policy with regard to written responses to challenges to policy or materials. If appropriate, the working librarian contributes well-written, cogent evaluations of contested material or policies and analyzes the material within the context of the selection policy.
  • Develops and maintains a contact list of community groups likely to be supportive of First Amendment issues.
  • Uses local, state and national issues as focal points to educate the public on First Amendment issues, either through forums, in-library displays or electronic displays (or a combination of all three).

Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Office for Intellectual Freedom nor the Intellectual Freedom Round Table necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and OIF and IFRT do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.

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