Competency A - Statement and Evidence

  Portfolio of Cathleen Elizabeth Ash


articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom;

The mores and values of an individual should not interfere with the ability to do a good job. Personal values probably shouldn't appear at the workplace at all - but let's face it - they do. Often. It is the essence of a person, and often directly affects the way she or he makes decisions...even little decisions. As librarians and humans it is clear that each of us will have values and mores that we live and abide by, but these cannot interfere with our position of providing information services. Due to the nature of our role, it is even more important that any beliefs and/or values be put aside to provide and secure all aspects of issues, all types of information materials, so we provide a plethora of materials from many points of view, from people and writers holding different values than our own.

As a librarian in the United States, a democratic country (value judgments aside), it is even more imperative for me to provide our youth with materials that contradict themselves, with numerous points of view (not just ones with which I might agree) and with literature they may choose to read, even if it has been banned elsewhere. How else might I help teach students to make educated decisions?

Each year, our library hosts a "Banned Book Celebration" and ties up the banned books in police crime tape and chains, keeping them on display for a week before allowing them to be checked out. Teachers across campus have integrated banned book discussions in their Advisories (homeroom for high school students) and students become aware of censorship and freedom of speech issues, which lead to discussion of the Constitution of the United States. It's a great, visual and clear-cut way to spur intelligent discussion over an often-heated controversy.

In addition to promoting intellectual freedom via the use of the Banned Book displays, the library also interacts with a number of clubs and groups on campus, including the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). Various activities are continuous (students review new books and titles and recommend them for purchase in the library, booktalks about existing resources are presented during their meetings) but the library was also honored to support and host the GSA's "hate awareness" presentation a couple of years ago. A display featuring teen-produced photography and poetry made it clear how abusive name-calling can be, and how it might effect self-esteem, especially in relation to students questioning their sexuality. The display was a huge success, and classes signed up to walk through the display and take a brief survey following it.

Promoting intellectual freedom also means ensuring libraries can continue to support their people through funding. In many instances, this means marketing and seeking additional means of funding and support by encouraging community members to become active. During the 2004-2005 school year, I posted an online site to make parents aware of budgetary items directly effecting their students' ability to gain access to information, information technology, and information training. The letter encouraged them to contact state officials and support their public school library and its funding.

List of Evidence for Competency A:
Banned Book Display The library honors the right to read every year by chaining books on display! The staff and students are encouraged to discuss intellectual freedom in class. Books are held on display for a week; at the end of the week, checkouts of the banned books are again allowed.
GSA Display The school's local GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) held a display in the library to promote awareness of "hate-speech" and its effects.
Activism A website "note to parents" regarding the status of public school library funding.