Getting to Know the Factors That Influence Today's Academic Libraries

By Gregory, Gwen M. | Information Today, July/August 2009 | Go to article overview

Getting to Know the Factors That Influence Today's Academic Libraries


Gregory, Gwen M., Information Today


Getting to Know the Factors That Influence Today's Academic Libraries by GWEN M.GREGORY Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your Academic Library: Scenarios from the Front Lines by Barbara M. Jones Chicago: American Library Association, 2009 ISBN: 978-0-8389-3580-4 256 pages; $55, softcover

Traditionally, librarians have been strong promoters of intellectual freedom and privacy rights. In the academic world, great value is placed on the freedom to think, speak, and research freely.

While academic libraries may not face the same challenges as school and public libraries (because academic libraries generally don't have a large population of users under the age of 18), they still face significant in- tellectual freedom issues, and many of those are related to the use of the internet. Any ac- ademic librarian will want to know what he or she can pect in this area, especially the directors of academic libraries.

Author Barbara Jones, who is currently the university librarian at Wesleyan University, taught a course on intellectual freedom at the University of Wisconsin- Madison's School of Library and Information Studies. She also wrote the book Libraries, Access, and Intellectual Freedom (ALA, 1999). Her academic library career gave her the chance to experience many different situations, and her involvement in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) provides her with an international perspective. In this new book, she introduces issues revolving around intellectual freedom in academic libraries along with a number of case studies, and she offers advice on being ready for the challenges you may face.

She begins with a discussion of the various campus constituencies that academic librarians work with, including faculty, administrations, state legislatures, boards of trustees, students, technology services, alumni, and the general community. Each has its own view about the library, privacy, and intellectual freedom.

Addressing Current Themes

Jones also highlights a few current themes in academia: academic freedom, 9/11 and the ensuing tightening of national security rules, campus civility codes, the move to new methods of assessment, and declining budgets. She also points out that public and private institutions of higher education have different responsibilities to their communities; public institutions must abide by state and federal regulations as government entities.

Following the extensive introduction, the book's five chapters use real- world examples to help readers understand "how academic librarians can promote their professional values on an operational level, within a campus context that is not always responsive to or aware of the ideals of intellectual freedom."

The first chapter brings us up-to-date with current trends in academic libraries, such as information literacy and the library as a place. Jones emphasizes that academic libraries need to have intellectual freedom policies in place and recommends a number of publications of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) as resources.

The second chapter moves on to collection development, where she spotlights the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (www.ala.org/ala/ aboutala/offices/oif/index.cfm) as an excellent source of information. The case studies in this chapter are instructive: a "heretical" work purchased by a conservative Christian college library, a "scholarly unsound" work used for historical or other research purposes at a secular academic library, and a "fake" scholarly work that may have research value. Faculty, administrators, and students may object to each of these, and librarians must be prepared to defend their decisions. …

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