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TL v60n1: Wendy Cornelison
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 60 Number 1



It's My Opinion!

Defining Intellectual Freedom

by Wendy Cornelisen


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What does Intellectual Freedom really mean?

It means buying books that we may not personally agree with for our library. It means keeping books that not all of our patrons will like on the shelf. And keeping circulation records private, so people can feel free to explore topics without fear of retribution.

Intellectual Freedom should be a guiding principle when our libraries update its collection development policy, sets loan rules, and figure out computer use guidelines.

To support Intellectual Freedom means libraries should strive to provide a broad and unbiased store of information. Providing access to more viewpoints gives people the opinions and facts they need to reach their own conclusions. A great example of this is the TEL database Points of View Reference Center. It includes essays written on more than 250 different issues, with each issue covered from multiple viewpoints. It gives students a chance to analyze the issues and apply their own critical thinking skills to form opinions.  

Why do we do it?

Intellectual Freedom helps encourage democracy and cooperation. We provide people with the knowledge they need to communicate their ideas effectively and participate actively in our democracy. We provide free access to the internet, books, newspapers, and other sources of information. It's more than just information though it is empowerment for our patrons, and it's one of the most important things we do.

Intellectual Freedom is fair. Our libraries should never be a personal collection for one patron or group; our collections should encompass the variety of beliefs, viewpoints and preferences of our community and the world. We have a responsibility to spend money in the best interest of our community's access to information from all sources.

Intellectual Freedom is what libraries are. We make information available to our patrons: students, researchers, job seekers, etc. We provide the best and most diverse sources of information we can find. And we make sure it's available for free to everyone who walks in the door.

Wendy Cornelisen is Reference Librarian at The Brentwood Public Library, Brentwood, Tennessee.


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