School Libraries and Censorship

Censorship In Student Media

This week I’ve been wrestling with complicated ideas about intellectual freedom, First Amendment and information access rights for minors, the Library Bill of Rights, and censorship.

While discussing these ideas with my husband, he challenged me to clarify the role of the school library.  In my studies,  it seems the ALA believes the school library to theoretically serve the same mission as the public library: to provide access to all information and ideas to everyone.

However in practice we first serve the educational missions of our schools and districts, and while many school libraries try to accommodate and provide access to all “members of the community,” generally speaking, most school libraries effectively limit access to students, faculty, and (sometimes) parents.

With differing access, constituents, funding, and educational directives should the “rules” about open access be different?

While both my husband and I agree that all people, even minors, should have access to all kinds of media (including racist, pornographic, etc.) in a public (i.e. city) libraries, we differ as to whether schools should be required to provide access to these same kinds of materials. Parents and community trust materials from the school library to be “school sanctioned” and generally expect those materials to have educational benefit.  My husband argues that if clear educational value cannot be demonstrated, students should be directed to the public library for materials (including popular fiction and social-media).

However, it can also be argued that this restricts access for some students, particularly those who do not have easy access to a local public library.

It’s an interesting and complicated topic to think about.

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