Monday, July 17, 2023

A Call to Action

The ALA Code of Ethics Item 9 is inspiring and also reads like a call to action: We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces. Though this is last on the list, it seems to underlie everything above, creating a foundation for the Big Why of what libraries do and how they do it, regardless of what specialization or sector the library occupies. Whenever in doubt, this provision guides us to the librarianship standard. In much the same way that basic labor laws are posted at the workplace and that Patient’s Rights are posted in medical clinics, I’d like to see the ALA Code of EthicsLinks to an external site.Links to an external site.ALA Core ValuesLinks to an external site.Links to an external site., and the ALA Library Bill of RightsLinks to an external site.Links to an external site. posted in every library. The Attendant Freedom to Read should be posted as well, especially in the children’s area. Provision 1 of the Freedom to Read StatementLinks to an external site.Links to an external site. states “It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.”  This is paramount for patrons to understand that they have the right to expect the library to act as a portal into the unknown, even (and possibly especially) when the unknown leads to topics and content deemed unorthodox, unpopular, or dangerous by the majority. Beyond just presenting ideas and materials, this statement makes clear that the library is -- by design and as a mission -- a safe space for oddities. Many of those who found themselves in libraries were able to do so because they themselves were deemed unorthodox, unpopular, or dangerous by the majority.  
In her 2018 article “Ethics, values, and intellectual freedom in school libraries,” Dr. Oltmann found that school librarians seem to have the least support for ALA ethic of resisting censorship and ALA core of democracy, and that these two elements are difficult to see as relevant to their regular work life in school libraries. I find it very interesting that school librarians are likely to self-censor on diversity and inclusion lines with regards to materials, and that they often use age-appropriate factors in limiting materials in the school library, while also skewing towards reflecting existing community diversity. This seems like a natural human inclination, but one that is problematic in terms of the ALA professional standards.