On August 25, 2019, at the World Library and Information Conference (WLIC) in Athens, Greece, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) celebrated 20 years of the IFLA Intellectual Freedom Statement.
The statement was created by the IFLA committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) which was created to
“defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights…
-Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both hold and express opinions and to seek and receive information.
-Intellectual freedom is the basis of democracy.
-Intellectual freedom is the core of the library concept.”
The intellectual freedom statement urges librarians and library staff to adhere to the principles of intellectual freedom including freedom to express opinions, freedom to access all information, and the rights of the patron to privacy in selecting and using information.
It was interesting, and a little bit concerning, when the rights of children to access of information were addressed at this presentation. Librarians are encouraged not only to make available any format of information desired by children, but also to be cautious about the use of technology. Many apps marketed to children collect data about the users. It is up to the librarians to know what is being collected particularly in the free apps that allow children to make movies, posters, books reports, and engage in other educational activities online. The presentation from Gennie Gebhart, Associate Director of Research, Electronic Frontier Foundation, was particularly chilling in considering the right to privacy.
What I found interesting is the connection between the intellectual freedom statement and its link to the United Nations human rights articles and wondered how to link intellectual freedom and human rights with the “Libraries for All” posters so prevalent in our public libraries today. It is incumbent upon us to stay aware of world issues of freedom of information not only to be supportive of international librarians but also because we are working with community members who are from countries where perhaps information is not so freely available. What does that do for us in terms of making sure we go beyond the “Libraries for All” posters? What are we doing to help community members who may not understand that libraries are free, open, and safe spaces? What must our services, in-house programs, and outreach and community engagement activities look like when we say that “intellectual freedom is the right of every individual”?
The statement is available for free on the IFLA web page at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal and is available in 31 languages! Maybe we might post snippets of the statement alongside our “Libraries for All” posters to show all of our community members, we care for everyone’s rights to access of information!
Fortunately, the presentation was recorded and is freely available at this link (the actual presentation begins about 20 minutes into the recording; Gebhart’s presentation begins about 1:15 into the recording).
Allison G. Kaplan, MLS, Ed.D., is Faculty Associate in the Information School at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is also the ALSC representative to the IFLA Standing Committee on Reading and Literacy.