Monday, March 05, 2007

U.S. Library Bill of Rights

Hands up, US many of your places of work have the Library Bill of Rights displayed somewhere in a public area in your library?

Second question. Are the non-librarians on your staff familiar with the Library Bill of Rights?

We got to musing on the visibility of these Rights when the small team working on our forthcoming report wondered among ourselves...have you ever seen the Library Bill of Rights displayed in a library? And the answer was, "no."

Why not, we wonder? As the document states: "...the following basic policies should guide their services." Shouldn't the people served in libraries know what the service promises are?

If you have the Library Bill of Rights displayed (or your country's equivalent), please let me know! And if you don't, tell me why not. Also, they haven't been amended since 1996. Do they need to be?

I do think it a bit odd that "libraries" stand in for "librarians." (That's a synecdoche for you non-English majors) It's as if doctors' codes referred to hospitals' responsibilities to patients--which they don't.

One criticism I have read about libraries' codes of ethics is that the individual practitioner is not explicitly held accountable (more on codes of ethics in a future post). Certainly, there are no librarians in the US LibraryBill of Rights.

In case you've forgotten, these Rights are:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Material should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 18, 1948. Amended february 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980, inclusion of "age" reaffirmed January 23, 1996, by the ALA Council.


waltc said...

I wonder if it is a synecdoche (as a rhetoric major, that's probably the first time in four decades I've used that word!).

For one, it's the American Library Association (far as I know, the National Librarians Association, which would be purified of us outsiders, didn't go very far).

For two, as I read the list, almost all of those are institutional expectations, which involve the librarians, the rest of the staff, the trustees...

As a patient in a hospital, I'd hope the hospital would have some kind of code for patient rights that governs the activities of the doctors, the nurses, the aides, etc...not the same as the doctor's responsibilities to patients, but not unrelated.

Excellent point about having LBR posted in libraries.

laura said...

I've always wanted to display the Library Bill of Rights in the library, but I haven't gotten around to creating a version in a format of suitable size and dignity. (The ALA website has an 8.5x11" PDF of it, but that seems a bit puny for hanging. Hint to library graphics providers: a poster would be nice.)

I did, however, hand a copy to our most recent hire when she was filling out the job application.

As for the synecdoche (I was but a lowly Greek major): I'd say that Walt's right in that these are institutional expectations. But as rights, they seem to me to apply mostly to library patrons. You have the right to have materials representing all views at your library, etc.