Free speech and libraries

26 Oct

Normally I don’t get inspiration this way, but here goes!

A very interesting discussion recently took place on Facebook that I was able to be a part of, centering around the issue of discrimination and restricting membership to groups based on certain criteria.  After seeing where it went, the issue of free speech came up, and being a librarian, I introduced the notion of the “chilling effect” and watched the discussion get a bit ridiculous as those who weren’t familiar with it applied it incorrectly.  If you, an information professional, are not familiar with this concept….get familiar.  Now.  Find out what it is in general, and how it applies to libraries.  Theresa Chmara’s book, Privacy and confidentiality issues in libraries, is a phenomenal place to start.

For those of us that are familiar with it, what’s your stance?  Personally, I tend against anything that chills free speech, and would deny parents certain things they feel a right to getting (their child’s circulation records, for example) because the law makes no distinction on those who have a right to consume information based on age, with the notable exception of pornography being information minors may not receive.  That, of course, is when I would disallow free speech.

How do your libraries handle the issue of free speech and the chilling effect?  Are there any policies in place about it?  What are your feelings about it, and how do you think it affects your career?


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