ALA Midwinter 2019

Intellectual Freedom for Youth at ALA Midwinter 2019

Librarians flocked to Seattle late last month, and there was plenty to talk about for those interested in intellectual freedom for children. Here are some of the highlights from meetings of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and the Freedom to Read Foundation.

New Documents on Kids’ Intellectual Freedom Rights

The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee has finished revisions on documents outlining the basics of intellectual freedom for both kids and their associated adults (parents, caregivers, teachers, etc.). Work is still continuing on making a comic-book version via partnership with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, but in the meantime, check out these newly revised resources:

New Library Bill of Rights Amendment

The ALA Library Bill of Rights has been amended for the first time since 1980. The new Article VII states: “All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.” This addition affirms the importance of advocating for the privacy of children in the library. Read the official press release here.

Updated Library Bill of Rights Interpretations

The Challenged Resources interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights has been updated. This interpretation provides guidance for dealing with content challenges in all types of libraries. The Prisoners’ Right to Read interpretation has also been amended, affirming and clarifying intellectual freedom rights for young people incarcerated in juvenile detention and immigration facilities.

In addition, new changes were made to the Meeting Rooms interpretation after criticism and discussion of the amendments from last summer. Work is also continuing on a new revision of the Diversity in Collection Development interpretation, with conversations being held about diversity of both content and representation.

Trending Legislation and Intellectual Freedom

There are a number of bills being introduced in state legislatures with similar language that have potential intellectual freedom repercussions, and are therefore worth keeping an eye on:

  • Bills in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia propose regulating social media as a public utility, which would provide recourse for complaints that speech (i.e. comments) was censored for religious or political content. This is of particular note to schools and libraries who moderate comments on an official organizational social media page.
  • Bills in Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and South Carolina propose requiring any retailer who sells Internet-ready devices to install pornography filtering software, and charge a fee to customers who wish to deactivate it.
  • Bills in Indiana and Maine propose removing schools and/or libraries from institutions exempted from laws concerning dissemination of harmful material to minors, allowing criminal prosecution of school and library employees.
  • Bills in Indiana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, and Virginia propose affirming and protecting the free speech rights of student journalists in public schools and universities.

There were also updates on specific case law dealing with intellectual freedom topics, including drag queen storytimes, potential unintended consequences of broadly written “revenge porn” laws, and research databases for allegedly providing access to inappropriate content. Make sure to keep an eye on the Freedom to Read Foundation’s website for more information.

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Justin Azevedo is Youth Materials Selector at the Sacramento Public Library and a co-chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.

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This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: V. Outreach and Advocacy and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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