Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries
Libraries are advocates for the freedom of the press and the freedom to read, inalienable rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution. Despite that, there are an astonishing number of threats to that freedom occurring in libraries today. Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.
Censorship occurs when expressive materials, like books, magazines, films and videos, or works of art, are removed or kept from public access. Individuals and pressure groups identify materials to which they object. Sometimes they succeed in pressuring schools not to use them, libraries not to shelve them, book and video stores not to carry them, publishers not to publish them, or art galleries not to display them. Censorship also occurs when materials are restricted to particular audiences, based on their age or other characteristics.
In most instances, a censor is a sincerely concerned individual who believes that censorship can improve society, protect children, and restore what the censor sees as lost moral values. But under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, each of us has the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally protected ideas, even if a censor finds those ideas offensive.
What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. Section 552 is a federal law established in 1966 to give private citizens greater access to government information. It requires that federal agencies disclose the fullest possible amount of information to the public, subject to certain exemptions.
- NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center
NCTE offers advice, helpful documents, and other support at no cost to teachers faced with challenges to literary works, films and videos, drama productions, or teaching methods.
- Banned Books Week
This site offers resources for celebrating Banned Books Week. Included are Banned Books Week news, events and materials.
- Banned Books Online
The Online Books Page presents a brief look at book banning with links to online texts of books banned by legal authorities and schools.
- National Coalition Against Censorship
The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of fifty-two participating organizations, is dedicated to protecting free expression and access to information.