What Is Intellectual Freedom? – Libraries & The Right To Read

Experiences, Thoughts

What is Intellectual Freedom? 

Every person has the right to unrestricted access to information from all viewpoints, both while seeking the information out and when receiving it. Intellectual freedom offers open access to all forms of expression so that all arguments for or against a cause or movement can be examined. Intellectual Freedom is important for every individual regardless of who they are. Our democratic system is built on the principle of intellectual freedom. 

We anticipate that our people will rule themselves. But in order to act properly, our populace must be informed. In a variety of formats, libraries offer people the concepts and data they need to educate themselves. The right to possess, receive, and transmit ideas is included in intellectual freedom.

Photo by Element5 Digital

It has been quite a while since I updated my blog here! But, there’s been many changes these past few months of 2022. Today is a great day for me to update things considering it’s about -30°F outside and I finally have a minute of time!

School has ended for me as I’ve just recently completed my degree program for Creative Writing & English. Wooh! Now to move on to other projects, tasks, and life things. 

I’ve always spent a lot of my free time in libraries and I can officially say that now I’m employed at one. It’s an honor and a great pleasure for me to work for and in one of the best libraries in the country.

It’s not just my personal opinion either – this library is an award-winning library and I’m ultra happy to be there.

Due to the nature of the subject, I, unfortunately, will not be revealing exactly where. Sorry to disappoint you! Just kidding. I’m not sorry. Don’t take it personal. 😉

Photo by Vincenzo Malagoli

Since I’ve been working in the library now, I’ve learned about Intellectual Freedom – which has always been important to me despite the fact that I initially didn’t know what it was called.

According to the American Library Association, 

“Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”

I want to explain exactly what this means in a wonderfully creative and not-so-boring way. The account I’ll be sharing here was provided by Jamie LaRue, the current library director and the previous director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

He frequently talks about the difficulties that today’s libraries face, the reasons behind these difficulties, and the function of the contemporary library.

Let’s Tell A Story

Scenario: A mother and son walk into the local library. They are browsing books and find many picture books in the kids section. The little boy picks up a book about dinosaurs and wants to check it out. 

The mother says no to the little boy and tells him he can’t read the book because dinosaurs were not in the Bible, and she only wants him to learn about things that are in the Bible. 

The mother refuses to check out the book for the child. She tells the library staff that she doesn’t want her son to have access to those kinds of books.

The next day, the child comes to the library alone. He goes right to the same section that he and his mother browsed the day before and picks up the book about dinosaurs.

He takes the book to the checkout and brings the book home. Shortly after, the mother arrives at the library with the son. 

The mother approaches the staff and says, “You knew I didn’t want him reading this. Why did you let him?”

The library staff explains to the woman that they are not allowed to dictate to the child what he chooses to read. This, my dear friends, is INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. 

The mother is furious. She becomes enraged. She makes the boy return the book and she takes him home. 

The very next day, the same little boy comes back to the library. He finds the same book about the dinosaurs and sits down in a comfy spot and starts to read it.

The library staff look at each other and observe the boy. One librarian says, “Should we take the book from him?” And the other says, “Nope. Let him read it. It’s his right.” 

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND

Now this story might not be exactly the same way Mr. LaRue told it, but I’ve told it from my memory and the lesson still does suffice. Censorship is a large problem in libraries across the country and this problem continues to grow. 

In 1939 the American Library Association adopted Intellectual Freedom as part of the Library Bill of Rights.

YES, There is a Library Bill of Rights, and if you didn’t know that I hope you are just as shocked as I was when I found out and that you scream to the mountaintops about it now that you know! 

What is the Library Bill of Rights? 

The Library Bill of Rights is a statement issued by the American Library Association that expresses library users’ rights to intellectual freedom as well as the association’s expectations of libraries to respect those rights. To view, the Library Bill of Rights visit the ALA and click here: Library Bill of Rights | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (ala.org)

The measure, first proposed in 1938 by library director Forrest Spaulding, was intended to speak out against “increasing intolerance, repression of free speech, and censorship harming the rights of minorities and individuals.”

Photo by Yan Krukov

The Library Bill of Rights is critically important to every American citizen because it is correlated to the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. 

Free and easy access to information is significantly aided by the provision of library services that are supported by public funds.

With the First Amendment being considered, one would think that Book Bans are not that serious – but in fact, they are.

Did you know that fairy tales in general are one of the most challenging genres for book bans and censorship? These older tales are being contested, as opposed to more recent and diverse works.

Some readers simply don’t enjoy works that contradict their own particular beliefs. They take action and work to have books banned and taken out of libraries if a book contradicts their own personal beliefs. To me, that is absolutely unacceptable. 

Here’s a question. Would you rather: 

A. Have your children study skills and gather information in a secure environment like a library?

B. Find out information alone and on the street?

For me, the answer is clear and simple. A. It will always be A. 

Why Are Fairy Tales Being Censored? Are Parents Really Attempting to Ban Fairy Tales? 

YES. They certainly are. And with the research and information by LaRue, I’ll tell you why. Do you remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf?

Of course, you do – it’s a classic. In some variations of the story, the old grandmother drinks wine. Dun, dun, dun! Believe it or not – to some people this is “promoting alcoholism to children.” Granny must be an alcoholic! 

Painting by Gustave Dore

With all due respect, if a wolf just tried to eat me or disguise himself and try to eat my family member, I feel like more than a glass of wine is appropriate as a coping mechanism for such a drastic situation. LaRue touches on this subject in more depth in the Personal Values and Institutional Purpose: Intellectual Freedom Issues in 2022 video which can be viewed for free on YouTube. 

Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers. These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom!

REAL FAIRY TALES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS

To kind of sum up my feelings about classic fairy tales, I will say this. Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers.

These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom! 

HOW TO UNITE AGAINST BOOK BANS AND CENSORSHIP

We all lose when books are banned.

Important resources that would help students better comprehend themselves and the world around them are inaccessible to them. If parents don’t pay attention, they could miss out on important teaching moments with their children. And communities miss out on a chance to grow and develop mutual appreciation and understanding.

Although attempts to censor books are nothing new, 2021 saw more of them than any year in the more than two decades since the American Library Association began keeping records.

UniteAgainstBookBans.org

Keep yourself informed. Stay informed on what is going on in the municipal councils, school boards, and library boards in your area as well as the state legislature in where you serve.

Send your mayor, state and federal legislators, and senators letters explaining your perspective and asking them to support your position. Attend the board meetings of the schools and libraries in your area.

 If you’ve enjoyed this post let me know in the comments. If you have any questions or suggestions on future topics you’d like to see me write about let me know! Thanks for stopping by. #READBANNEDBOOKS 

To learn more about how YOU can fight for your RIGHT TO READ visit www.uniteagainstbookbans.org

By the way, check out this really awesome beanie I designed 🙂 READ BANNED BOOKS Embroidered Beanie by Bookages – Etsy 

ACCESS TO MORE RESOURCES:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s