Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice: Tensions between Core Values in American Librarianship

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Over the past few years, tensions between two core values in U.S. librarianship, intellectual freedom and social justice, have roiled the profession. This conflict was most recently seen in the insertion and subsequent removal of "hate groups"to the list of entities that cannot be denied access to library meeting rooms in the American Library Association's Meeting Rooms Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. This paper is intended to provide context for this conflict. It begins by situating its arguments within ethical philosophy, specifically the study of values or axiology. It then provides an overview of the theoretical foundations of the values of liberalism. Next, the paper discusses the values of truth and freedom from harm in librarianship. Finally, it suggests that a fuller understanding of the library's place within the public sphere is a possible model for mitigating the tensions currently found in American librarianship. The paper is intended to provide a theoretical foundation for further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalOpen Information Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • intellectual freedom
  • social justice
  • Values in librarianship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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