Term Paper: Libraries and Intellectual Freedom

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[. . .] International bodies and Intellectual Freedom

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the largest body that represents all those who work within the library systems. It has upheld the freedom of intellectual freedom since the 1990s. According to this federation the freedom of expression and the right to know are two different things but one cannot exist without the other. The right to information is necessary in order for one to exercise their freedom of though and conscience. On the other hand, one needs to have freedom to think and express in order to fully realize their freedom to access information. According to the Canadian Library Association's Statement on Intellectual Freedom, everyone has the basic right to have access to all expressions of information, intellectual creative activity, as well as to articulate their viewpoint publicly. This right was made law in British Columbia during 2004, which protects libraries from being sued for their collections (Deschamps, 2009).

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) safeguards intellectual freedom as provided for in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The IFLA promotes the idea that it is the basic right of every human being to access information freely and to express themselves freely in public. According to this federation, freedom of expression and the right to know are two aspects but they go hand in hand. For one to fully realize the benefits of freedom of thought and conscience, they need to have a right to know. For one to fully benefit from freedom of access to information, they need to have freedom of expression and freedom of thought. The federation emphasizes that intellectual freedom is a fundamental duty of the lirary and information profession. Libraries and librarians should therefore allow individuals free access to information, to respect the privacy of library users and to defend and support the principles of intellectual freedom as well as allowing individuals to exercise their freedom of expression (Deschamps, 2009). In order to achieve this, the IFLA emphasizes that

Since libraries serve as a chance through which people can acquire knowledge, they should allow free access to this knowledge.

Libraries should have materials which promote free-thinking and life-long learning for individuals and groups.

Libraries should always safeguard the principles of intellectual freedom as well as human and civil rights.

Libraries should have all the materials that reflect the diversity of the society they serve within budgetary and space limitations. These materials should include information written in all points-of-view and from different backgrounds.

Libraries should choose which material to keep and which ones to reject based on professional considerations and not driven y religious, political or moral biases.

Libraries shall fight all forms of censorship and go ahead to obtain and pass on information to users without fear.

All users will be treated equitably and given access to information without any form of discrimination.

The relationship between librarians and users shall be confidential. The information concerning users and the material they read shall not be given out to any unauthorized persons.

Principles of academic freedom shall be upheld in libraries which are run using public funds.

It is the responsibility of librarians and other staff working in such libraries to uphold those principles.

Librarians and other staff have a responsibility to their employer and to those who use the library. If at any point their duties to the different parties are in conflict, the responsibility to the user should be given first priority (Deschamps, 2009).

Libraries and library workers are responsible for disseminating information to the society. Therefore the role that the libraries play is crucial in intellectual freedom and information industry discussions. There are set rules and standards which libraries are expected to follow by the bodies to which they belong such as the ALA, IFLA and CILIP. The ALA requires its members to challenge censorship because it's the responsibility of libraries to give access to information to all citizens (Kagan, 2008). These are the basic rules that libraries are expected to adhere to:

1.

To provide information and enlightenment to everyone in society through provision of books and other learning resources.

2.

Service to all users without discrimination or bias.

3.

Rejection of collections should not be based on origin, background or views from which they were written.

4.

Materials in the library should reflect different views and approaches to an issue. They should not be one-sided.

5.

Everyone who seeks access to information in the library should be allowed to do so without discrimination of any kind.

6.

Libraries should be places where human rights and equal opportunity for all is upheld.

7.

Libraries should respond to changing needs in the labor market by providing material that disseminates information which is transferrable to the workplace to potential users.

8.

Respect for copyrights (Verheul et al., 2011).

Due to the factors above, intellectual freedom will always be important to libraries and the information profession. However, the fact that libraries don't operate within a vacuum has to be taken into consideration. Every library serves a different clientele and provides a specific type of information. There are four different types of libraries namely: academic libraries, public libraries, specific libraries and national libraries. Academic libraries are visited students and faculty of a specific discipline. Special libraries have material that contains information that is specific to a certain industry and it is therefore useful to people who work within that particular profession. Public and national libraries serve the general public, and they are open to everyone (Verheul et al., 2011).

Since libraries serve the general public and they are funded through public funds, they must have materials that cater to all manner of needs that exist in the society within which they exist. In addition, they must always be careful to consider intellectual freedom, which is a basic human right, in their service provision. Since it is a basic human right for everyone to access information, all the material that an individual needs should be available in the library, within budgetary and space limitations. The individual should also e able to access every type of information available in the library, unless doing so would pose a danger to national security or it is against the rules of the library. Both modern and traditional methods of finding information should e available in the library in order to serve the right of the individual to find and receive information through any form of media.

The Significance of intellectual freedom to the individual

A number of studies have focused on the Significance of intellectual freedom to the individual. These studies point out that individuals are greatly affected by information and therefore intellectual freedom is key for individual and societal growth and development. They point out:

When people are allowed to think freely, they become creative and self-driven (Sturges, 2008).

They are capable of providing basic needs to their dependants and also self-educating on the best kinds of food to consume to improve their health (Sturges, 2008).

These people are able to thrive in the workplace and to they have qualities which are attractive to employers (Sturges, 2008).

The value of democracy is likely to be realized in a society where intellectual freedom is encouraged (Sturges, 2008).

The creation of a free society has benefits to the economy too. Scholars argue that no country in which democracy is practiced has there occurred a major food crisis. The reason for this is that a population which has intellectual freedom responds rapidly to resolve the problem of food shortage in any part of the country. The speed with which a democratic government responds to such a problem is also remarkable. If this argument is to be applied to the information industry, a conclusion can be drawn that sustainable growth can only be achieved if intellectual freedom has a place in the information society (Sturges, 2008).

Since the information society depends on creativity to flourish, it would be very hard to exist in a system where creativity and freedom of thought are suppressed and censored (Sturges, 2008).

Notions of academic freedom play a huge role in making the profession of librarianship more attractive and dangerous to a certain extent. Intellectual freedom as provided for in the Universal Declaration will possibly be a major issue to the information society in the near future (Sturges, 2008)

For intellectual freedom policies to be effective and sustainable, factors that take into consideration local dynamics and national expectations as well as political and legal issues have to be included in the formulation process. Most librarians when asked about key issues surrounding intellectual freedom, they describe the major problem areas as far as intellectual freedom is concerned include: access to computers, the government requesting access to circulation records, and the impact of local state and federal laws in formulation of policies. They illustrate the best way to come up with intellectual freedom policies that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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