In today's academic world intellectual freedom is a very important issue. In this paper various factors which are affecting intellectual freedom have been discussed along with efforts that need to be made in order to make the access of information possible for all. The issues being faced mainly by the librarians regarding the protection of confidential information of the library users have also been discussed in this paper. Furthermore the paper focuses on the important roles that can be played by the librarians in guiding and educating the people regarding the proper use of information.
Intellectual freedom is the liberty to express opinions in the academic world, the freedom of access to the information and the freedom of using that information (in a legal manner) without the fear of your confidential information being exploited. Intellectual freedom is very important for the academic growth of any society or country. People need to feel free in making use of the libraries and the information present in them rather than fearing that their personal information stored in the library computers will be misused (Arko-Cobbah, 2011).
It was in 1939 that the idea of intellectual freedom was recognized for the first time by the American Library Association. However, it was in 1974 that the Intellectual Freedom Manual's first edition was published. A lot of important updates have been brought to the manual since then and in 2006 its 7th edition was published. Updates included in the manual are "(1) Resolution on Retention of Library Usage Records, (2) RFID in Libraries, (3) Resolution in Workplace Speech, (4) Minors and Internet Interactivity, (5) Material on Social Networks, (6) a discussion on Services to Persons with Disabilities, (7) Code of Ethics Explanatory Statements, (8) coverage of the latest on the U.S.A. Patriot Act, (9) materials on education and intellectual freedom, and (10) various other updates" (as referenced in Joseph, 2012).
The library is considered a place where knowledge can be achieved by the people regardless of their race, gender, background or ethnicity. This is a true fact and it has been noted by a number of authors as well that the major goal of the library is to provide the people with required information without taking note of their point-of-view. The library is merely a channel to access the required information. Intellectual freedom, in the truest sense doesn't promote any causes, is not biased towards any point-of-views and promotes no movements. If the researcher or reader is restricted in a particular point-of-view it might mean that he/she has an incomplete and narrow subject view. An example of such a case can be the banning of a controversial book from the library or allowing only a selected group of patrons to view it (Joseph, 2012).
Expurgation is another kind of censorship according to which the Library Bill of Rights is violated. Expurgation means doing something in a physical manner to the library material so that the complete access to the library could be restricted. An example of expurgation can be a librarian covering up some part of a book or novel because he/she thinks that it might offend some of the patrons. Intellectual Freedom Committee made a statement in response to the mutilation of books. The statement emphasizes that the restriction should be imposed on the Expurgation of any material of the library without taking into consideration the desires or rights of the library consumers (Joseph, 2012).
The phrase "intellectual freedom" means exactly what someone would expect after reading the two words. Intellectual freedom means the right, ability and freedom of the individuals to allow their minds to take them wherever they want and to search for knowledge and understanding and therefore, ideas and information. The people who understand the significance of intellectual freedom completely believe that individuals should be able to access all kinds of information such as radio, books, television, articles, film etc. without any kind of limitations on the basis of the content being displayed through these channels (Arko-Cobbah, 2011).
Intellectual freedom in the U.S. is protected mostly by the first amendment. Also, denying intellectual freedom means one is denying the basic principle of democracy according to which an ordinary citizen will reject the bad and accept the good by exercising his/her critical judgment (American Association of School Librarians 1998, 156). Even with these democratic principles, which are present in this country, there are still those who want to restrict access to information by using various means including censorship.
A significant threat being faced by intellectual freedom in the 21st century. For instance, in Oppenheim and Smith's (2004) opinion censorship usually is when the access of something is stopped by someone. It can be noted that throughout history censorship has been made use of by the groups and individuals in order to control and prevent the dissemination and access of information and ideas. A number of individuals can want particular information to not spread and they might have several reasons for wanting to restrict the information. It was asserted by Saykanic that mostly groups or individuals try to deny or restrict access to materials on the basis of ethnic, political, moral, philosophical and religious (2000). Hence ethnicity, politics, morality, philosophy and religion becomes the basis for threats towards intellectual freedom.
Section 2: Literature Review
Keywords like "intellectual freedom" "academic freedom" "library" "libraries" "intellectual freedom in libraries" "academic freedom in libraries" "academic freedom in a library" "intellectual freedom in a library" were used in order to search the library in my university along with the online available material to conduct a systematic analyses. Following are the reports that this search were limited to: a) peer refereed/reviewed (scholarly), b) will be available in the database in full text, c) published between the years of 2000 and 2014.
The results of the research revealed that studies focused on the significance of intellectual freedom and consider it a basic human right. These studies reveal that no society can grow academically and intellectually until and unless it has intellectual freedom. Studies have shown that libraries play a very important role in intellectual freedom. Some of the major issues associated with libraries and intellectual freedom have been mentioned in this paper as well. With the advancement in technology and so much information available online, some other problems have arisen as well, for example the overload and wallowing of information are few of the issues related to such great access to the electronic resources. Librarians can play a very important role here in guiding the students towards proper information and in this way the students can avoid making use of the information that isn't legitimate.
Section 3: Discussion
Intellectual Freedom as a Basic Human Right
Knox (2014) points out that Intellectual freedom is generally seen as a fundamental human right. It is defined as the birth right of each and every person to have freedom to think, freedom to communicate, freedom to generate ideas as well as the right to receive information and the right to pass on information without limitation.
Intellectual freedom is included in the constitutions of most countries. It is also found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 in the United Nations (UN). It states that every individual has the right to have freedom to express, communicate and the right to pass on information through any media without limitation. Most countries, both democracies and dictatorships subscribe to this declaration, because intellectual freedom is an important element of human existence. It is also found in a number of other international conventions including the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10(1)) as well as the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights (Article 19) (Knox, 2014).
Rubel (2014) asserts that intellectual freedom is of importance to all those who work in the information industry, both at personal and professional levels. At personal levels, we are affected because we exist as part of a society, and professionally because we have to sort through our collections and decide which material to keep and which ones need to be rejected (Rubel, 2014).
Morrissey (2012) in his study asserts that for a society to be regarded as liberal, its citizens need to have access to all kind of information, regardless of their status in society because this ensures that the government is always engaging in activities that serve the interests of the citizens. Every citizen needs to have access to information that is current in respect to what is happening in the country and internationally, without too much censorship that is too much to the extent of hindering their intellectual freedom. In this respect, libraries serve an important role in the society because they are the places where this information can be accessed, and therefore they must respond to all changes in the country. Intellectual freedom is recognized and supported by many bodies that deal with information such as IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), as…