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Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries: Key Ideas Summary

Lesson 1: What is intellectual freedom?

Key Ideas:

  1. Intellectual freedom has its basis in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and has been interpreted by courts as including a minor’s right to receive information and ideas.
  2. Intellectual freedom is a core value for librarians but is unknown outside the library profession.
  3. School librarians are key defenders of students’ intellectual freedom and advocate for minors’ access to the library’s print collection, digital resources, and the Internet.
  4. The guiding principles of intellectual freedom are found in two foundational ALA documents: the Library Bill of Rights and the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

Lesson 2: Selecting Library Materials

Key Ideas:

  1. The legal basis for selection of library resources is a materials selection policy formally approved by the school’s governing body.
  2. Selecting school library resources is one of the most critical responsibilities of a school librarian.
  3. School librarians use selection criteria to guide them during selection of library resources, and in the event of a challenge, will also use the criteria to defend the selection.
  4. School librarians must combat against self-censorship based on their own biases, preferences, and fear of challenges.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

Lesson 3: Preparing for Challenges to Library Resources

Key Ideas:

  1. There is a difference among the terms “expression of concern/oral complaint,” “challenge,” and “censorship”; the terms should be applied precisely.
  2. Expressions of concern and/or challenges frequently occur because adults are trying to “protect” children and young adults from material they feel is “harmful.”
  3. Parents are legally responsible and have the right to guide and control the reading choices of their children but should not try to remove books to deny other parents the same right.
  4. Preparation for oral expression of concern and formal challenges include having a board-approved materials selection policy with reconsideration procedures and working with the school community to educate them about the selection of library resources.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

  • Adams, Helen R. “Challenge-Proofing Your School Library Checklist.” In Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library, 57-58. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2013. (See the Template section of this workshop)
  • "Glossary of Terms." In Intellectual Freedom Manual, edited by Trina Magi and Martin Garnar, 247-248. 9th ed. Chicago, Illinois: ALA Editions, 2015.

Lesson 4: Working Through Challenges to Library Resources

Key Ideas:

  1. Administrators, faculty and staff, parents, students, and community members have the right to express concerns about or formally challenge a library resource and request its review. Their concerns should be heard courteously and addressed with respect. 1.a. After an oral complaint, no action should be taken until school officials receive a completed, signed reconsideration of library resources form.
  2. When faced with a formal challenge, school administrators and the school librarian should follow the steps outlined in the district’s official reconsideration process. 2.b. As part of the process, a review committee will read and discuss the challenged work, prepare a report, and forward it to the administration; the complainant may appeal the decision to the board of education which will make a final decision.
  3. During a challenge, seek support from colleagues, state and national library associations, and First Amendment advocacy groups such as the ACLU.
  4. Some challenges do succeed, and library resources may be moved to another level, restricted, or removed from the collection.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

  • Adams, Helen R. "What Happens When You Call the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for Help?" In Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library, 63-65. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2013.
  • "How to Respond to Challenges and Concerns about Library Resources." In Intellectual Freedom Manual, edited by Trina Magi and Martin Garnar, 83-90. 9th ed. Chicago, Illinois: ALA Editions, 2015.

Lesson 5: Intellectual Freedom Online

Key Ideas:

  1. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires schools that accept specific federal funding to certify they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures (Internet filters) installed on all school computers used by minors and adults. The filters are to protect against visual depictions of child pornography, obscenity, or material “harmful to minors” as defined by federal law. Additionally, the Internet Safety Policy must address monitoring of minors using the Internet and educating minors about appropriate online behavior. In some states, filtering requirements may also be present to be eligible to receive specific types of state funding.
  2. Many schools misinterpret CIPA’s filtering requirements and over-block legitimate educational (and constitutionally protected) Internet content.
  3. Restrictive filtering affects access to educationally appropriate websites and interactive collaborative online tools needed by students, limits their learning opportunities, and increases barriers to online information for impoverished students without home Internet connectivity.
  4. By providing examples of local overblocking to administrators, school librarians can advocate for a variety of districtwide strategies to reduce the effects of aggressive filtering and improve students’ instructional experiences online.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

Lesson 6: Advocating for Students Intellectual Freedom

Key Ideas:

  1. As the local intellectual freedom “expert,” school librarians have the responsibility to educate the principal, faculty, students, and parents.
  2. Advocating for intellectual freedom requires regular, intentional planning along with formal and informal communication and special events aimed at the school community.
  3. To become productive adults in a democratic society, students must learn about their First Amendment free speech rights, and the school librarian should be part of the instructional team teaching this information.
  4. Raise awareness in your school by observing national library intellectual freedom advocacy events such as Banned Books Week, Banned Websites Awareness Day, and Choose Privacy Week.

Additional Resources to Support This Lesson:

  • Adams, Helen R. "The Intellectual Freedom Calendar: Another Advocacy Plan for the School Library." In Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library, 221-225. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2013.
  • Adams, Helen R. "Recipe for Intellectual Freedom." In Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library, 3. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2013. See the Images section in this workshop.
  • Banned Books Week. American Library Association. Office for Intellectual Freedom. http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/.
  • “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” American Association of School Librarians. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/.
  • Choose Privacy Week. American Library Association. Office for Intellectual Freedom. https://chooseprivacyweek.org/.
  • Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read. Chicago, American Library Association, 2014.
  • Eldred, Christine.  “The Choices That Count.” School Library Monthly 31 (September/October 2014): 34-35.  

 

This workshop is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding application of law in schools. Nothing in this workshop is intended to constitute legal advice, and nothing herein should be considered legal advice. If legal advice is required, the reader should consult a licensed attorney in his or her own state. Neither ABC-CLIO, LLC, nor the author makes any warranties or representations concerning the information contained in this lesson or the use to which it is put.

 

MLA Citation Adams, Helen R. "Intellectual Freedom: Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries: Key Ideas Summary." School Library Connection, November 2015, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/1989132?learningModuleId=1980440&tab=1&topicCenterId=1955261.

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Entry ID: 1989132

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