Your Community: Protecting intellectual freedom at the library

Shawnee Mission Post Sponsor - April 7, 2018 10:00 am

Depending on your experience growing up, you probably have personal views about libraries. On the positive side of the spectrum, maybe you see the Library as a wonderland filled with more stories than you could possibly read in a lifetime. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it could’ve been a place where you had to sit and be quiet.

Center of Intellectual Freedom
What you may not realize is the Library is a dedicated home for intellectual freedom. It is a place where patrons can check out materials without fear of repression or limit on freedom of speech. This is a foundational principle of our democracy and is as instrumental to our rights as the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Library provides access to ideas and information through our collection in the form of books, magazines, music, movies, databases and other resources. The collection is a constant reminder of these freedoms and a major part of the experience of a patron of the Library.

Community Third Space
In this vein, we strive to make the Library a safe place for discussion and allowing individuals to freely speak their conscience. The Library is a space where members of the community can gather to share ideas, debate and agree to disagree.

In previous years, we’ve hosted programs centering on gun control and the Second Amendment, women in politics, pit bulls and Breed Specific Legislation, and issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. These and other issues are charged topics and have quickly caught the attention of passionate individuals on all sides who joined the conversations in person and on social media.

These conversations lead to questions, debates and serious soul searching as participants shared their voice. We believe it is the Library’s role to provide a neutral space for our community to have conversations such as this. It is through such programming interested parties could engage on the issues, with the Library in the role of facilitator, and ensure participants a safe space for their voice. In addition, each Johnson County Library location has a Petitioning Zone where any patrons can speak or hand out information, providing another avenue to share their voice.

Access to Ideas
Johnson County Library policies such as the Library Bill of Rights and The Freedom to Read guide selections for the Johnson County Library collection and help the selectors represent and protect individual voices through equitable access to ideas, information, experiences and materials that support and enrich people’s lives.

To learn more, join us at the Intellectual Freedom Workshop on September 6 at Antioch Library or Oak Park Library on October 2.

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