CFA librarians guarantee the intellectual freedom of academic communities

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A startling increase in book-related challenges and attempts to censor reading material has engulfed our public libraries and K-12 schools this year.

While not new, these latest efforts are politically partisan and rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry and their intersectionalities. Materials slated for removal from library shelves are often written by or about underrepresented groups.

“Libraries are not neutral,” said Carolyn Caffrey Gardner, chair of the CFA Librarians Committee and Information Literacy Coordinator at CSU Dominquez Hills. “Sometimes critics will cite the need to present ‘both sides’ of an issue or silence as a form of ‘objective neutrality,’ but libraries have always made choices about how they serve their communities.”

Even though these so-called challenges have not reached CSU (and tend to target K-12 schools), it is important for teachers to be aware of this growing momentum of authoritarian tactics nationwide to better support librarians in accessing contested materials.

Unlike primary education environments, academic library materials generally do not have a formal challenge procedure involving outside counsel or other political process.

Library faculty have professional expertise in screening – and screening – materials in accordance with collection development policies. It is important to remember that professors have the academic freedom to carry out their responsibilities. Many CSU libraries have collections of children’s and young adult books used by education students in teaching placements and other activities, which include popular titles challenged today and historically.

“These attempts to censor library materials – which include nuanced depictions of minority or otherwise oppressed groups – are not just about removing materials from libraries, but are part of broader attempts to symbolically erase populations that put conservatives uncomfortable politics,” said Maggie Clarke. , CFA member and humanities librarian at CSU Dominguez Hills. “The expressed intent is to maintain existing inequalities that benefit white, straight, and cis people at the expense of all others, while obscuring the processes by which oppression is maintained.”

The American Association of University Teachers (AAUP) states that, as with other colleges, academic freedom is “indispensable to librarians in their role as teachers and researchers.”

“Critically, they are the repositories of knowledge with the responsibility of ensuring the intellectual freedom of the academic community through the availability of information and ideas, however controversial, so that teachers can freely teach and that students may learn freely,” AAUP writes in its joint statement on faculty status for higher education librarians.

In addition to reaching out to the CFA, if anyone encounters an informal book challenge, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom also has extensive support resources, which can be read here.

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