“How to protect the freedom to read in your library” webinar recording with extended Q&A

Last week, we were delighted to hear tips for protecting the freedom to read and keeping all books on shelves from three experienced freedom-to-read supporters. Watch the full webinar above, and feel free to share it with others! In addition to their informational presentations (see slides below), our speakers had some time for Q&A, but could not get to all questions posed. See follow up answers to questions from speakers Kristin Pekoll, Kate Lecthtenberg, and Scott DiMarco below.

Follow-up Q&A:

  1. For computer censorship, how do you deal with censorship in the form of filters? (By the way, Today is Banned Websites Awareness Day!)

KP: We try to educate about the limitations and inaccuracies of filters. Last year, a paper was published by the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Office for Information Technology Policy called “Fencing Out Knowledge

“Drawing on extensive research and on presentations and discussion during a national symposium and two online forums held in July 2013, this study identified an overreach in the implementation of CIPA—far beyond the requirements and intent of the law. This overreach stems from misinterpretations of the law, different perceptions of how to filter, and limitations of internet This study identified an overreach in the implementation of CIPA — far beyond the requirements and intent of the law — that affects access to information and learning opportunities for both children and adults, and disproportionally impacts those who can benefit most from public internet access — the 60 million Americans without either a home broadband connection or smartphone. Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of CIPA 10 Years Later 6 filtering software. The net result is over-filtering that blocks access to legitimate, educational resources while often failing to block the images proscribed by the law. Over-filtering limits access to information and learning opportunities for both children and adults, and disproportionally impacts those who can benefit most from public library and school internet access—the 60 million Americans without access to either a home broadband connection or smartphone.”

  1. Does anyone have any experience with Internet filters that are used in libraries and how they cannot allow access to LGBTQ information?

KP: AASL has done some great work on filters and Banned Website Awareness Day. There is a new interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights about filtering.

The ACLU has a campaign about schools filtering websites with LGBTQ content.

“Several students reported to the ACLU that they had persuaded their schools to override the filters and grant access to websites on an individualized basis, but they felt it was burdensome and insulting to have to request special permission every time they sought to access a new website that had been blocked by the anti-LGBT filter.” (Read more here.)

  1. What about issues with patron “ratings” in an OPAC like Bibliocommons?

KP: I’m not professionally familiar with Bibliocommons. My only interaction with that platform is as a library patron. I choose not to rate the books on my library catalog because it’s a privacy issue for me. But from what I understand, Bibliocommon “ratings” are reader reviews just like GoodReads or Amazon; not age restriction ratings like MPAA ratings.


  1. How broadly do you define access? For instance if we maintained a collection of erotica would the patron have to ask specifically to use it as long as long-term information on their use was not retained?

KP: It really depends on each specific library and their collection policies. The library bill of rights encourages the broadest possible definition of access. The Intellectual Freedom Manual quotes Candace Morgan: “It is the genius of the American system that we base our liberty on the broadest protection of each individual’s rights to free expression and on the corollary right to access the expression of others. It is the genius of the American public library to be an institution dedicated to promoting the exercise of these rights.”

  1. What about books that are banned because of low quality of writing (as opposed to a problematic topic)?

KP: Libraries provide access. We can’t judge quality or judge a person based on their choice to read or view material that we deem low-quality. If the book was selected to be a part of the collection based on the library’s policy then it shouldn’t be banned for any reason.

SD: If a specific book was requested by a professor for a class, regardless of my personal opinion, we would at the very least try to obtain it.  As Kristin mentioned, we provide the access to the material.

  1. Kate, you mentioned how to have readers develop the “put it back on the shelf skill.” How do you frame that as a skill and how do you teach it?

KL: Honestly, it’s not a skill for which I have a deep repertoire of teaching strategies–but your question makes me want to dig deeper.  Right now, I think the most important thing I do is ask the same question over and over:  What should you do if you find something in a book that you don’t like, agree with, or feel comfortable with?  When I ask a whole class, as I did in this video about selecting and discussing books, most of them know by now to say, “Put it back!”  It’s a refrain that I always follow up with a different example of why I chose to put a book down at some point in my reading life.

During reader’s advisory, I often say something like, “Many of our books deal with intense and sometimes controversial teen issues, so feel free to pass on any of the books I suggest.  It’s important to know yourself and your family!”  I always struggle to word it right, but my goal is to get each student thinking about his or her own limits. I’m also working with English teachers to find options for students who choose a book for a class assignment and then realize it’s not a good choice for them–no matter what the reason. In short, it’s a constant volley of conversations between teachers, students, and library staff, and I look forward to creating more opportunities for students to engage in this complex meta-cognitive thinking.

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