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KQ gets it right

2. Schizophrenia
The school library field divides itself pretty cleanly and clearly between the childrens/young adult lit people and the research people. Sorry, but it is true. And to a very large extent, the lit people are very much those who lead it.

The Nov/Dec 2007 issue of Knowledge Quest is a telling example. I was very excited to learn that the theme was “Intellectual Freedom 101.” But I was very disappointed in reading it to find that the majority of the issue was devoted to book challenges – not Internet censorship and filtering problems. What does this say about the librarian’s role in technology integration when we still seem to be more concerned about a few cranks wanting to strike a couple fiction books from our shelves than we are about an entire generation of children losing access to a broad range of online information sources and tools? One of the things I have always been most proud of about the library profession is its anti-censorship stance. But the world has moved on in this area and we have not. The teachers I talk to don't worry about kids getting access to Harry Potter, but to Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs and wikis. (Have we met the enemy? Feb 16, 2008)

Since I am open with my criticism of AASL, I need to praise when praise is due. The Sept/Oct issue of Knowledge Quest, guest edited by my friend Helen Adams, is excellent*. It directly addresses my complaint in the excerpt above. In fact, Helen even gives me credit for priming the pump:

The impetus for the themed issue “Intellectual Freedom Online” began with an e-mail from
Doug Johnson. Although complimentary of the Knowledge Quest November/December 2007 themed issue “Intellectual Freedom 101,” he commented that the articles were focused primarily on print materials. What about intellectual freedom online, he asked? Long-time Knowledge Quest editor Debbie Abilock and I agreed, and we immediately began to plan for the issue. Later in 2008, Doug stated on his Blue Skunk blog during Banned Books Week, “But ALA (and ISTE), if we are truly committed to "Freedom to Read" what we really need is...“Blocked Bytes Week.” Americans need the freedom to read more than just books” (2008). Doug’s nudge gave us even more incentive to spotlight minors’ rights online and intellectual freedom related to the use of the Internet in schools and school libraries.

Pretty cool. And thanks for listening, Helen, Debbie A., and AASL.

Unfortunately Knowledge Quest is another one of those "members only" publications, but if you are an ALA/AASL member, have a friend who is a member, have access to a library that carries KQ, or have access to a full-text periodical database, you'll find some great articles in the issue by Barbara Jansen, Barbara Stripling, Nancy Willard, Annette Lamb, Frances Harris, Nancy Everhart, and other library luminaries.

If you are a school library media specialist or have an interest in IF, censorship, Internet filtering, or your students' rights to have access to a multiplicity of ideas, views and values, the issue is worth finding and reading - really, really. When I think of the all the loses that kids would experience were school librarians to disappear, having advocates for their reading, research and technology rights would be the most grievous.

* Read more of Helen's thoughts on her blog post, Intellectual Freedom Online, November 1, 2010.

Some my other writings about intellectual freedom if you are interested (Not that I have any opinions about the issue.)

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Reader Comments (3)

If CIPA did not require a filter, would your district still have one in place? (and is that decision dependent upon your philosophical position?)

I am not asking in any type of "gotcha" manner, but when Doug Johnson retires, will some of his philosophical positions maintain (are they widely held by the school staff).

I would love to say mine would, but I don't believe it. I think my views are not widely held by the larger school community (and perhaps another reason why people need to turn their attention to this issue as it is a bigger deal than book challenges are - and most of us have decent policies and support for book challenges - thanks to people like Helen Adams).

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoel VerDuin

Hey Doug,
Really???? School librarians are neatly and cleanly divided into the reading folks and the research folks? I think I must be confused. I can't be the only one out there that loves and teaches both. Is that quote from you? Is it old? It seems more to me as if the school library folks are more divided into elementary and secondary folks. It also seems to me that my skills in the high school job are not equally employed as they were in the middle school job. High school is MUCH more about research and digital use and skills. Maybe I have missed the point of your article. Straighten me out if I have.

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTori Jensen

Hi Joel,

That is a great question about whether we would have a filter were it not required. I am guessing we would.

The problem is not with filters but with how they are configured and who makes the determination of what is filtered. I don't think any of us mind that little kids don't accidentally stumble on porn because it is blocked. It's the egregious over-blocking for political viewpoint reasons that is horrible.

I'd like to think that a filtering policy that honors intellectual freedom would last beyond my tenure here. One of the advantages of Mankato being a college town is that concepts like intellectual freedom are respected by many parents, school board members, and others.


Hi Tori,

OK, you caught in in an over-generalization! An increasing number of librarians are "swinging both ways" - lit and research. Or lit and tech.

I am just hoping our professional organizations give equal weight to both areas of responsibility and show preferential treatment to one or the other. I thought the initial Intellectual Freedom issue of KQ ONLY spoke to print censorship.


November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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