August 13, 2018

The ALA's revised Intellectual Freedom policy


Good afternoon,

I am adding my voice to the many you have heard and read already in regards to the revised wording of the Hate Speech and Hate Crime section of the Intellectual Freedom policy. I have read the OIF's recent statement and appreciate the continued discussion, but feel a game of semantics is being used to dismiss the very real and tangible concerns of both library workers and the public who call these spaces home.

What is never neutral is the fact that some statements are expressed while others are omitted, some interests are highlighted while others are overlooked. The OIF took on the challenging task of writing down what role a public forum should play in contentious times. It is my understanding that the members of the ALA Council worked extensively with the OIF on the language of this revised policy in order to ensure it represents the experiences of those who work in libraries around the country every day.

I was dismayed to learn that effort was dismissed in favor of quickly passing through dramatic changes without the voice of the Council.

There are a number of important ways the ALA already does or could provide leadership here:

  • Offer guidance that walks library decision makers through the process of crafting policies on how to deal with contentious situations;
  • Offer resources for library workers who are personally impacted by hate groups within their spaces and for the management whose responsibility it is to ensure a safe working environment (It would also be worth recalling the fact that the library worker's position is one of "compelled attention" and that abusive behavior is often targeted towards this reality);
  • Take seriously the experiences of those who represent their libraries to the ALA Council and pass policy revisions in good faith with those who have worked to make sure a diversity of voices are heard.

There is nothing neutral about the fact that this policy explicitly names "hate speech" and "hate groups" but not, for example, advocacy, protests, sexual education, or any of a number of "hot button" issues that could be expressed in a public meeting space. That the ALA felt the need to explicitly welcome hate groups in a climate where outspoken racism and anti-Semitism continues to rise, sends a message that the American Library Association does not represent libraries in America, nor those who work to uphold them.

I am writing as a librarian who will continue to support those organizations that in turn support and guide me in my efforts to improve and represent my community.

Carolyn Moritz

New Year | "The whole wide world was so beautiful that she could hardly stand it.