MLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom

On behalf of our members, member institutions and professional ethical standards, we at the Missouri Library Association (MLA) stand with librarians, library workers, and other educators in the state of Missouri as they select and provide access to their collections for readers. We further support the processes and procedures our libraries have in place to deal with challenges with concerned parents and community members and are deeply troubled by efforts to circumvent these processes for political gain or as a result of moral panic.

Libraries as public institutions have existed in the United States for over 250 years. Each year, we promote our foundational ideals, provide access for our patrons, and find better and more equitable avenues to improve our institutions. Perhaps our most important guiding principle comes from Ranganathan: “Every reader, their book and every book, its reader.”

The “freedom to read” is more than just a shorthand for encouraging curiosity and inquiry. It is a pillar of our democracy. Intellectual freedom means that all of us have the right to explore and engage with the ideas we choose, and to be informed about the world around us. Adults have intellectual freedom, but so do youth. We support MASL’s statement that says, “Students should have choices in what books they read.”

We librarians are skilled, credentialed and thoughtful professionals who make it our work to champion inquiry, curiosity, democracy and access to information. Librarians support the rights of parents to choose books for their own children, but not the rights of one person to choose what books are right for an entire classroom, school, or public. Through our deep immersion in books and materials, librarians and library workers understand the greater context of knowledge and understanding facilitated through our collections. We reject the claim that removing, labeling, or relocating a title will somehow shield children from the ideas contained within, especially in the context of our connected digital world. We further reject the notion that anyone can perform the work we do without significant engagement with the professional ethics and expertise of librarianship. Public and school libraries are safe places for children to encounter ideas in an environment that nurtures curiosity. Occasionally these encounters will include ideas that might be challenging. We support the right of readers to be challenged, to learn, and to grow.  Librarians and educators are the critical connection between readers and their books. It is our responsibility to champion these rights.

We support the expertise, thoughtfulness, and care exercised by thousands of librarians, library workers, and educators in the state of Missouri to foster the curiosity and inquiry that lives in young people.

Signed,

Cindy Thompson, Missouri Library Association President

Members of the Missouri Library Association Board

Members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

 

For further reading:

Ranganathan’s Laws

Freedom to Read Statement

The Library Bill of Rights

Core Values of Librarianship