Thursday, August 07, 2008

Librarians as Free Speech Shock Troops


Every so often, I read a blog post that makes me go 'wow' and sticks with me long and hard. Posts like that are rare so when I run across them I believe it's important others have the opportunity to read them as well.

Jamie Larue just wrote such a post called "Uncle Bobby's Wedding".

The subject matter is a childrens book about gay marriage, but it could be about any idea that one person or group of persons disagrees with and doesn't feel should be made available to another group (in this case, children aged 2-7). It addresses the importance of free speech and open thought. He's addressing libraries, but it extends well beyond that to any free speech be it in a library, or on the internet.
"Our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them. The founders uniformly despised many practices in England that compromised matters of individual conscience by restricting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech – the right to talk, write, publish, discuss – was so important to the founders that it was the first amendment to the Constitution – and without it, the Constitution never would have been ratified."
It's an incredibly well thought out and respectful response that I find, in our polarized world, sadly lacking in the public discussion of ideas.
"Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life."
Bravo Mr. Larue. You have, again, reinforced my belief that The Librarians of the world are our shock troops for free speech and the dissemination of ideas and open discussion.

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