February 5th, 2021

In favor of freedom of expressing

I would not like to see Librarians become censors, in the guise of opposing "fake news." I would oppose Librarians becoming like Google and Face Book: Google manipulates Internet search results and Face Book cancels accounts, and it is "left" leaning sites which have been targeted. The Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Librarians should never let themselves be placed in the position of deciding what is "fake" and what is "true," or what is accurate information and what is "disinformation." That is not the Librarian's role. Every subject under the sun is controversial.

So, to answer the question posed in the Forum, what can Librarians do?
I think this is the time to strengthen the traditional role and responsibility of the Library, helped along by the digital technologies. I also think we need a vigorous culture of peer reviewing and book reviewing, encouraging intellectual debate and discussion. This is also the time to strengthen and renew the "Library Bill of Rights" for the information age.

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Comments (6)

Comments (6)

I can find no way to reply to the comments of Linda J. (below), in this web program. I could find no "reply" button.
My comments about the viral pandemic were in response to Elie J.'s comment (below) who wrote "There shouldn't be any controversy over facts." Clearly, there is controversy. Decision makers in many countries had access to the scientific facts and consciously chose to ignore those facts.

Lesley J

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Librarians are exactly the people to decide what is fake and what isn't. In an academic setting librarians are sought after to find reliable sources for students because professors demand it. In public libraries, where visitors may be there for lack of their own resources, providing information without identifying its nature seems like malpractice.

There shouldn't be controversy over facts. There are opinions and they need to be expressed not censored. Along with that, it is important for consumers to know what they are getting. Determining the facts is not censorship. While I can't say the best way to accomplish this, I know it needs to be in play. Other posters here have shared recommendations.

Another tactic by tyrants is distributing misinformation.

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Hello, Ellie J. and thanks for your response. You and I have a substantial disagreement. You write: "Librarians are exactly the people to decide what is fake and what isn't." I disagree.

Ellie, you are making the same argument Google and Face book are making, in their hiring of thousands of people to serve as "fact checkers." These "fact checkers" have blacklisted leaf-leaning, socialist sites like the World Socialist Web Site, at wsws.org and cancelled individual accounts. Who is going to fact-check the fact-checkers? It constitutes censorship.

Let's turn our attention to "facts." You say that "determining the facts is not censorship," and "there shouldn't be controversy over facts."

But Ellie, there is enormous controversy over facts! and controversy over the interpretation of the facts. The best example I can give is this: the COVID viral pandemic. Consider how the governments of the world have mis-handled it, all based on their ignoring or misinterpreting scientific facts. They have politicized the facts, distorting and twisting the scientific findings to make them say what the politicians wanted them to say. The biggest lie is that the economy, particularly the schools, can reopen "safely."

The British Medical Journal, one of the most respected scientific journals in the world, published an editorial in its recent issue, using the term "social murder" in describing the actions of governments around the world, in refusing to take the needed steps to protect their populations, and all claiming to be based on "the facts." Here is the citation to the British Medical Journal, if you would like to look it up and read it:
Editorial: "Covid-19: Social murder, they wrote--elected, unaccountable, and unrepentant," by Kamran Abbasi, executive editor. Published 04 February, 2021.
Cited as: BMJ 2021; 372:n314.

Today in Chicago, 25,000 teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union are voting on a proposed new contract which will force them back to live-in person learning in the schools, based on the false premise that schools can open safely during the pandemic. People's lives are at stake! This is what happens when the facts are politicized. People die.




The BMJ article expresses what I am saying. It was misinformation (lies) and selfishness for pursuit of their own agendas that government leaders, including our president, downplayed the seriousness of the disease. They had access to the best possible heath care while those depending on them did not. Their actions were murderous. (As an aside I would like at some point explore the ethics Bob Woodward withholding the truth but that is an entire different conversation)

The truth was out there. It needed to be communicated, demonstrated and the message reinforced. Libraries did that. It is our responsibility as information professionals.

Libraries teamed with other institutions (CDC), promoted Youtube videos and podcasts, sat for interviews with TV and magazines.

1. Acting as contact trackers. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/contact-tracing-librarians-recruited-as-covid-19-hunters/

2. The International Federation of Library Associations provided resources for librarians that others could access. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/contact-tracing-librarians-recruited-as-covid-19-hunters/ This was an international effort.

I don't see that as censoring the other side but as educating to help save people lives in face of the lies. At least in this one example we are discussing.


Hi Lesley:

Thanks for joining our conversation. How do you see "the traditional role and responsibility of the Library?" And how would you define "censorship" in the context of a library?

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Thank you for your response.
The traditional role and responsibility of the library includes collection development. And here, librarians already have guidelines for the selection of materials, which address how to evaluate the credentials of an author and publisher. We have our collection development policy statements and approval plan profiles.

I oppose taking any steps to combat the so-called Fake News or disinformation, which represents a new type of political correctness, and a rightward shift. Here, the Library Bill of Rights can help us: Article II: "Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval." And Article III: "Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment."

Re: Censorship. Censorship cannot be considered ONLY in the context of a Library. I believe we must consider the world at large. Libraries are part of that world.

Censorship is the practice of tyrants throughout history in silencing dissent: kings, emperors, religious leaders, and politicians in democratic countries have all employed censorship. Censorship might be accompanied by imprisonment, even torture.

The persecution and imprisonment of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, the forced exile of Snowden and the long imprisonment and psychological torture of Julian Assange, constitute censorship and persecution.

When well known newspapers such as the New York Times get government approval before publishing news stories, that is censorship.

When Google takes steps to eliminate progressive-left-leaning and socialist web sites from their search results, that is censorship.

I mention these examples because they affect the intellectual climate. They affect what is being published, and what is not allowed to be published and acquired by libraries.

I hope this is helpful.