Tag Archives: intellectual freedom


Reviewed By: Judith Gruber, Tess Harper, Anne Luca, Isabel Vargas, Jennifer Weisberger

Link to article: https://doaj.org/article/3cdebe9f3705497b99cb59fa81a1da7a

Intellectual freedom, or the right of every individual to have access to and express information of all points of view without restriction, is one of the primary principles of modern public librarianship. Nanjing Library, the oldest public library in China, has taken positive and effective strides in the efforts to ensure intellectual freedom to the community that it serves. In the the article Nanjing Library’s Efforts on Intellectual Freedom, which was written by one of the librarians who works there, gives an in depth analysis of the library’s services and history. Established in 1907, Nanjing Library is the public library of the province of Jiangsu, and was the national central library during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Due to its rich cultural history and place of importance within the community, Nanjing Library promotes intellectual freedom for its patrons through its collections, services, and free access to information, both print and digital. As a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), Nanjing Library is part of a large global network of public libraries serving as information centers offering historical and rare materials, as well as increasingly modern resources
The Nanjing Library houses the third largest library collection in China with more than 11 million volumes of collected books. The Nanjing Library is known for its collection of historical documents that consists of “1.6 million volumes of ancient books, including 140,000 rare books and 700,000 volumes of Republic of China’s documents” (Bing, 2015, p. 8). This collection includes ancient manuscripts, block-prints, books and other works from the Tang and Liao dynasties. 454 elements of the Nanjing collection have been placed on China’s National Precious Ancient Book Register. The Nanjing collection has “formed a resource system, covering various fields in social sciences and natural sciences” (p.8).
The Nanjing Library is located in the center of Nanjing in an area known as Daxinggong. The construction of this library cost more than 400 million Yuan and consists of over 78, 000 sq. meters of floor space. The Nanjing library houses 3,000 seats for its users as well as “more than 4,000 information points for users in the Library” (p.8). The Nanjing Library’s mission is to take positive and effective measures to protect the intellectual freedom of its users. The free public services the library offers include reading, lending, and references services, access to a plethora of databases, lectures, exhibitions and “all kinds of reader activities (p.8)”.
With regard to serving disadvantaged groups, Bing (2015) writes that Jiangsu provincial library’s “…key functions include collecting, organizing, preserving, and utilizing information resources to support its mission of providing information resources to support its mission of providing services to all citizens, including disadvantaged groups” (p. 14). In addition, Jiangsu library also was the pioneering library to offer services to “visually impaired users among all provincial public libraries in China”, calling it “The Blind Audio Library” (Bing, 2015, p. 14). This collection contains “…3,000 volumes of Braille books and 33,000 audiobooks” as well as “…Braille printers, tape recorders, video viewing devices, computers for the visually impaired to get the Internet” and other services (Bing, 2015, p.14). Furthermore, Bing (2015) writes that “Since 2012, Nanjing Library has been organizing public training for rural migrant workers, the elderly, children, laid-off workers, and other vulnerable groups”, offering these groups instruction on using computers and digital resources (p.15).
The Nanjing Library provides open access to its resources 365 days a year, providing free parking and and mostly free library cards to patrons. The vast majority of its services are available for free, including reference and all lending services. They also have lectures which are available for patrons at no cost. These lectures vary on different topics, and are considered very important parts of life to the patrons who utilize them. The library has also curated many exhibits,which also attract patrons. The Nanjing Library has worked to digitize sources, which not only provides users a means for access them, in addition to preserving the print resources that they have. A mobile app was created, as well as an RFID self service system, which has touch screens for users to access. The library is also working to get the OCLC WorldCat up and running in the library as well. With all of these services and resources, the Nanjing Library has encouraged people to get involved and actively learn. Particularly community events such as the lectures and the exhibits are designed to bring people into the library and learn, while also bringing patrons in contact with the other services the library provides.
The Nanjing Library is encouraging intellectual freedom by providing digital resources. The library gives users free access to not only Chinese databases, but foreign databases. This helps the community stay globally aware and involved – especially since they’ve also given users touch screen devices for newspaper reading. Their electronic reading room provides users with free internet access and multimedia resources.
Of course, one may question whether there is any censorship given China’s history and political climate. Censorship is a major concern in most libraries, but with China’s history of silencing any political dissent, it does make one concerned about what filters may still be enacted on the digital information users are being given. China has been known to monitor its citizens on the internet, and for citizens to face real consequences from stating their opinions or accessing information. This is also a piece which was written by a librarian who helps run this library, which does bring up some concerns about how unbiased this might be as a source. However, enabling the community to access information online, is sending a positive message that the Nanjing Library is a place of intellectual freedom, which does give one hope that this is a place where information users access is less heavily monitored.

The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens

Reviewed By: Sarah Pace, Emily Phillips, David Fournier, Elysse Fink

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/the-right-to-read-the-how-and-why-of-supporting-intellectual-freedom-for-teens/

It is not news that teenagers are developing and exploring their world. In her article, The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens (2014), Emily Calkins shares her opinion on what perspective libraries ought to take concerning the intellectual freedom of teenagers:

“It’s not that caregivers should stop being involved in their children’s’ library use and
reading habits when their children reach adolescence. There may be times, however, when a young person wants or needs information to which her guardian might want to restrict access. Because of the developmental needs of adolescence and libraries’ commitment to intellectual freedom, libraries should support the intellectual freedom for teenagers rather than the right of guardians to control their children’s intellectual lives.”

Libraries have intellectual freedom in mind and in their very hearts. This fact is evident based on the ALA’s very own Library Bill of Rights. So it is that teens should be afforded the same rights. During those tumultuous years of adolescence, one is becoming sexually active and should be offered fair and honest information regarding the ins and outs of sex. This is just one example that highlights Calkin’s larger point–that information ought to be free and open to everyone and that a person or entity has no right to censor information. Sure a parent can discourage materials in their own house, but they cross a line by saying that other teens/adolescents cannot have access to this information thus limiting that groups’ intellectual freedom.

Method and Unanswered Questions-
Calkins is concerned in this essay with the ability of librarians to assist young adults in a time of personal growth. Establishing self-sufficiency and independence is a crucial rite of passage for young adults. Challenging and questioning the beliefs of their family and culture is an integral part of this, and is not something that can easily be done at home with parents watching their every move. Even more so, teens’ intellectual freedoms are limited when parents censor their information pursuits, so they must find a place in which they can safely fulfill that need.
Calkins only briefly touched on how “young adult” and “adolescent” are defined, footnoted at the end of the article. A first unanswered question would be to explore that concept more thoroughly from a psychological standpoint, as well as an informational one. Are the information needs of a 12 year old different than an 18 year old? How can the library acknowledge and support this difference?

Second, Calkins discusses library policy in regards to protecting the privacy of adolescents, suggesting several variations of library card policies and how they affect access. Are teen’s accounts private, or do caregivers have access to information about their teen’s check-outs? If so, then how are teens supposed to feel protected? A possible solution to this is an honor system collection by providing access to materials to teens that don’t need to be checked out with a library card. This allows teens to take out what may serve their information wants and needs without intimidation and embarrassment. The legal ramifications of these policies for the library, with regards to a minor being able to be the sole party responsible for an account which may have financial liabilities are not discussed. This is not a deal breaker for being able to offer young adults full privacy, but it is a very real legal reality that the library needs to be able to deal with.

A discussion of how to have conversations with parents regarding the privacy of their teens was also missing. Discussing these issues with the staff was brought up, but many of the suggested policies will greatly anger some parents, especially as these policies directly contradict their parental rights with most other institutions and may come as a surprise. How to approach these conversations in a calm, professional manner, with talking points on how to best support the library’s position, or at least resources on how to prepare for this would have been helpful.

A similar question, how do we talk to adolescents about their privacy rights in ways that are relevant and which connect with the realities of their lives was missing. Young adults will not read a policy brochure that lists their rights, and many of these ideas may be very foreign to some. How do we open this conversation in a meaningful way?

Calkins concludes by acknowledging that the theoretical side of intellectual freedom is often the easiest part; librarians agree not to censor materials and leave the decision-making about who can or can’t read something up to the patron or their guardian. But not wanting to leave it at that, Calkins outlines practical suggestions on how libraries can practically support intellectual freedom for teen patrons, beginning with due diligence: research and familiarize oneself on the library’s policies regarding minors. Next review the collection to see if it includes materials for a variety of patrons. Go a step further and train staff on intellectual freedom. Other creative (albeit not fully researched) suggestions put forth were to develop an “honor system collection” for Teen Self Help titles and to partner with community organizations to promote intellectual freedom and access to information. Relatively simple steps for a librarian that could make a huge difference in a teen’s life.