Promoting Intellectual Freedom in Your Promotional Events
We are on the cusp of several exciting library celebrations in the month of April and on into May, from National Library Week, April 8 - 14, to Choose Privacy Week, May 1 - 7, and several ALA-sponsored events in between that can ALL be used to assert the role of the library as a protector of intellectual freedom. In a year of legislation that seems to strive more and more toward restriction, our patrons deserve to know that their libraries are standing firm as a source of open access to unrestrained information.
The theme of National Library Week 2012 is “You Belong @ Your Library”. What better opportunity to think about the inclusiveness of our collections, and whether our patrons get to see themselves and their interests represented within them? I can’t help but think of the students of the Tucson, Arizona Unified School District and their Mexican American Studies program, disbanded and with its related texts removed from access by the TUSD school board. It is up to librarians to speak out and represent the ALA’s policies of “equal access to information for all persons” and “the ongoing need to increase awareness of and responsiveness to the diversity of the communities we serve.” Whatever population is being treated like a minority in your community (even if they aren’t one--Dewey Decimal Classification 305 includes women’s studies, just as an example...Library of Congress-cataloged libraries, how current is your HQ 1180 to HQ 1190 section?) should find an oasis in your library’s resources.
YALSA’s Support Teen Literature Day is April 12 this year, and most of the frequently challenged titles in recent years are books written for teens. This is a tremendous way to extend the potential for engaging teens with displays of the (award winning!) “forbidden titles” in your collection before Banned Books Week rolls around. The award winning YA literature we are currently trying to support in my own district is receiving some press that may find its way to your area; I’m grateful that a Google search of Knox county “looking for alaska” also includes a gorgeous book spotlight for John Green’s stunning and wrenching title from my colleague and yours, Sarah Searles, School Libraries columnist for this publication and Knox County Schools librarian. Be sure that your written policy for dealing with challenges to materials is handy when you have created your own spotlight on the edgy, heartfelt, honest, literary novels found among current teen titles.
Librarians are no strangers to having to advocate for ourselves, but why not take an opportunity to make your voice heard in Washington D.C. on Library Legislative Day, April 23 and 24 this year, discussing the importance of intellectual freedom issues for our patrons and our democracy with those who can legislate action and change? If you can’t make the trip, send a strongly worded letter or make a phone call.
And finally, the event that will take us into May, Choose Privacy Week. You may remember that I have addressed this event and its issues before, but I would like to encourage you again to visit the outstanding website for this event. It is laden with exceptional resources, and it also features the brilliant graphics of ALA‘s promotional materials for Choose Privacy Week 2012. I already have mine, including the buttons that I plan to award to teachers who create a Choose Privacy Week lesson plan for their content area; I’d love to know what you have planned for your library the week of May 1 - 7!
Karyn Storts-Brinks is the librarian at Fulton High School, Knoxville, Tennessee. firstname.lastname@example.org