- Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your Academic Library: Scenarios from the Front Lines
The purpose of this work is to provide a guide to safeguarding intellectual freedom principles in the rarefied atmosphere of academic libraries. The book was written in the context of restrictions on civil liberties imposed by the Bush administration's war on terror, so the volume moves past book-based challenges to address the complex social and economic, as well as political, issues associated with telecommunications and electronic resources.
Barbara M. Jones is well acquainted with the issues and solutions provided in this book as the Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian at Wesleyan University and current U. S. representative to the Committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression Committee of IFLA. The author is also a winner of the Downs Intellectual Freedom Award and an inductee to the Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor. The work under review differs from her previous book, Libraries, Access, and Intellectual Freedom (Chicago: American Library Association, 1999), which deals more with the legal background of libraries as limited public forums, and provides specific information and strategies for intellectual freedom policies. The new publication focuses strictly on academic libraries and gives practical case studies to illustrate ways of dealing with major issues.
The author provides a concise overview of the challenges faced by academic librarians by analyzing the constituencies and campus political maneuvering that affect the library. She discusses the full universe of players, including not only the usual suspects—faculty, students, and [End Page 518] administration—but also alumni, IT staff, and even legislators because all of these persons can become involved when library challenges blow up into full-blown media circuses. As Jones points out, librarians cannot take for granted that all constituencies see the library as an asset (the various departments on campus, for example, are often budgetary competitors), and some may take advantage of bad publicity to make incursions on library funding. Jones cautions the reader not to accept at face value the perceived liberality of academe or to hold as a truism that the concept of academic freedom will be extended with equanimity to librarians. She notes that, in the academic world, challenges to library materials and policies often come from the left as well as the right; and she cites as an example the well-meaning but problematic institution of campus speech codes.
This work covers the academic library functions around which censorship issues seem to swirl—collections, Internet access, exhibit spaces, programs, and meeting rooms—before taking on the thorny subject of guaranteeing privacy for library users. For each of these areas, the author provides several case studies that examine the challenges that might arise in academic libraries in the context of our times. For example, the chapter on collection development contains a case study on the acquisition and classification of books that are fakes, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Jones' work is especially strong in the final chapter, in which she examines the attitudes of current college students toward privacy and uses OCLC's 2007 report Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World as a launching point for discussion. Here, too, the author discusses the little known, much less understood, Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which requires telecommunications companies to ensure that their equipment and services can conduct real-time electronic surveillance, without the knowledge of the person(s) under surveillance. The implications of this and other legislation discussed by Jones remain, to say the least, quite troubling.
This book is recommended for purchase by all academic libraries. It would also provide an excellent overview for library school students hoping to work in college and university libraries.