Banned Books, Intellectual Freedom, and the Library

September 30–October 1, 2009 hosted by Marilyn Wilt and Roxanne Myers Spencer

With the annual “celebration”/observance of Banned Books Week, we have an opportunity to step back from daily routines and activities and reflect on the ever-present challenges to intellectual freedom, and the basic right to read that pervades the current national environment.

Join this timely e-forum and share your ideas and experiences. What have our libraries done to safeguard these freedoms? Do our current policies support handling challenges to books in the collection? Do the existing policies address privacy and security concerns—protect First Amendment rights, address potential censorship? How have electronic publications changed the conversation—relationship to author, publisher, vendor?

What have our libraries done to educate our communities, to expand awareness and understanding of the roles of the libraries in safeguarding intellectual property, while providing access to, and information on, a variety of issues and concerns that impact the community’s civil discourse? Are these educational ventures designed to inform, educate, provoke, entertain?

“Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate; and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of information. Freedom to express oneself through a chosen mode of communication, including the Internet, becomes virtually meaningless if access to that information is not protected. Intellectual freedom implies a circle, and that circle is broken if either freedom of expression or access to ideas is stifled.” (Intellectual Freedom Manual, American Library Association, 7th edition)

Go to discussion archive.

Marilyn Wilt is the Training and Learning Coordinator for Rutgers University Libraries. She is responsible for the professional development of faculty librarians, professional/administrative staff, and support staff on the three Rutgers campuses -- New Brunswick/Piscataway, Newark, and Camden. Her programs, both formal and informal, are designed to create and maintain a dynamic, vibrant learning environment, supporting innovation and successfully achieving goals. Rutgers University Libraries’ celebration of 2009 Banned Books Week includes two faculty panel presentations: (1) “Academic and Intellectual Freedom Climate on Campus -- Are our Freedoms Secure in the Next Generation”, and (2) “I Know Why the Caged Book Sings: Reading and Identity”; and screening two challenged films: “Fahrenheit 451 “(Truffaut, 1966), “Salt of the Earth” (1954). In addition, we are gathering a series of video podcasts of volunteer readers from across the University reading from their “favorite” banned books. Access to the video podcasts will be available through the Libraries’ website during Banned Books Week.

Roxanne Myers Spencer is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Resources Center (ERC) for Western Kentucky University Libraries, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She manages the campus branch library that primarily serves the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, but is open to the entire WKU community. Roxanne supervises ERC staff and student workers and is responsible for selection of University Libraries’ education collection, consisting of some 85,000 titles, including a juvenile collection of 30,000 titles. She produces a newsletter, ERC Bookends, which is distributed to all WKU faculty and staff. As an adjunct faculty member in WKU’s Library Media Education program, Roxanne teaches a graduate course in collection management. WKU Libraries is celebrating Banned Books Week at the ERC with a selection of students’ comments about their favorite challenged children’s or young adult books, as well as the intellectual freedom exhibit “Posters for Peace: Images from the National Circulating Library of Students’ Peace Poster Stamps.” Exhibits for Banned Books Week at the Helm-Cravens Library include posters and book displays in the study lounge of the Helm Reference area.