Hate Speech in Libraries

There have been several reports over the last few weeks identifying a rise in incidents of hate speech, racist graffiti and slogans, and acts of violence toward members of various minority groups throughout the country. Several libraries have been targeted—books and buildings have been defaced with swastikas, racist, sexist, homo- and transphobic epithets, explicit threats of violence toward minority groups, etc.

Libraries are targets because we stand at the vanguard of promoting inclusion and diversity. We seek to empower the disempowered, to give voice and provide access to all individuals and groups within our community. We hold as a core value that no one be excluded from the tools and services we offer, that no one be silenced or impeded from equal participation in our community. Libraries function as a safe space for anyone who needs it.

Libraries pose a great threat to those who seek to exclude all those who are different from them.

Libraries hold a resolute belief in the freedom of speech and expression. This is fundamental to everything we do. How, then, are libraries supposed to handle incidents of hate speech?

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ALA Report on Internet Filtering

Bravo to the American Library Association for compiling this report!

Over-filtering in schools and libraries harms education, new ALA report finds by Jazzy Wright (posted on June 11, 2014)

In addition to raising essential points regarding the negative impact that over-filtering the internet has on education and learning (and disproportionately for the poor), the article highlights an issue that I feel very strongly about:

“[S]chools that over-filter restrict students from learning key digital readiness skills that are vital for the rest of their lives. Over-blocking in schools hampers students from developing their online presence and fully understanding the extent and permanence of their digital footprint. … Filtering beyond CIPA’s requirements results in critical missed opportunities to prepare students to be responsible users, consumers, and producers of online content and resources.”

This echoes an argument that I’ve made before—censorship does our children a vast disservice in the long run. When it comes to libraries, I would also reiterate—it’s not a library’s job to police people.

What I like best about this report from the ALA is that it tells us the same things about internet filtering that the Librarian in Black has been telling us for years. It’s good to see her message recognized as an official stance of the ALA.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Internet Censorship: A Global Perspective

Given the blog I posted yesterday about CIPA, I think this is an important perspective to keep in mind:

A Map of the Countries That Censor the Internet by Casey Chan (posted by Gizmodo on August 13, 2013; found via Stephen’s Lighthouse)

This is not in any way to mitigate the irreducible importance of the freedom of information in our democracy. But the larger reality is that we’re far better off on this front than many other people in throughout the world. If anything—this makes upholding our own freedom all the more important, as an example of the benefit to society that it engenders.

CIPA, Censorship & the EFF

For the past few days, this article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been making its way through the library sphere:

The Cost of Censorship in Libraries: 10 Years Under the Children’s Internet Protection Act by Rainey Reitman (posted on September 4, 2013)

There’s much excellent material to go over in this piece. I have many reactions to it. The first and most important being this:

It’s not a library’s job to police people.

It’s not actually our job to act in loco parentis. This is one of the big differences between public libraries and public schools, and it’s something that many library patrons misunderstand. It’s not a library’s job to judge any patron’s information needs—it’s not even any of our business why they need it.

It is our job to provide access to information and to help people learn how to handle it in useful and healthy ways.
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Advertising In Libraries? Maybe…

I’ve been hearing about public libraries selling advertising space as a source of funding for a couple of years now. I keep thinking that I should be opposed to this idea on principle – and I’m fascinated to discover that I’m not.

I think this article does a fine and concise job of summarizing the issue:

Advertising in Libraries? Considering the Consequences (posted on Non-Profit Quarterly, February 27, 2013)

Selling advertising space in libraries has the potential to be a substantial source of funding. Librarians are well aware of the dangers this type of arrangement poses; any library wishing to go this route will make sure to include language in any such contacts that explicitly deny advertisers the right to have any say in operational or policy decisions.
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Censorship Is Stupid

As is typical with the changing of the year, librarians and watchdog groups take some time to look back and reflect on the past year in censorship. Here are two such articles that I ran across recently:

Censorship drives me insane. It’s stupid. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked.
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