One of my favorite reads as a young person was a book I found buried on my mom's bookshelf. It was an old paperback, pages falling out, paper yellowed and brittle. I didn't ask my mom to borrow the book, but she wouldn't have expected me to. I just began reading it, and it became a ground-breaking read for my youthful self. Shortly after 1 began the book my mom noticed me reading it and told me a story. When she was young this book had been banned in her high school. Originally, it had been published for adults, but with a teen main character troubled and searching for identity, it quickly was adopted by the younger generation. The copy that I was reading, the actual copy in my hands, was hidden in the girls' bathroom, and the girls would take bathroom breaks throughout the day to sneak in and read the book.
Today this book is considered a classic and sometimes even included on required reading lists. What would the world be like for me if my mom or my community had made the decision to restrict me intellectually? What if they made all my reading choices for me? It would have completely altered who I am, my love of reading, and my thirst for knowledge.
The Importance of Intellectual Freedom Today
I admit it: I love being a school librarian. We get to bring so much joy and comfort to our patrons. We are instrumental in developing students' abilities to become independent and autonomous thinkers, learners, and doers. Intellectual freedom is a multifaceted issue. The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as "the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction" (n.d.). A school library is a conduit to equitable access to information. It does not matter the race, creed, color, social strata, or country of birth. When our students enter their school library and work with their school librarian, they are all equal in the eyes of equitable access to information and intellectual freedom.
The speed at which information is available and is propagated is overwhelming to the average information consumer. The information available maybe accurate, biased, distorted, valid, informative, entertaining--or sometimes even a combination of all of the above. Our great hope is to develop literate citizens who have access to all the information, yet can assess and interpret this information. Developing these skills is a critical role for school librarians.
It is our responsibility to teach students and teachers to access all types of information and to evaluate for the accuracy found within. When intellectual freedom is jeopardized, when information or resources are withheld, so is a person's ability to learn and make thorough decisions. The school is one of the great strengths of a community, and a school librarian is the cornerstone for developing the most well-rounded, literate citizens in a democratic society. We want to grow people who are capable of learning for themselves, thinking for themselves, and communicating their expertise in an effective and productive manner. This is made possible through a valued school library program, collection, library, and librarian who teaches and upholds these concepts.
The demand for and belief in freedoms is a pillar in our country. Intellectual freedom and the expectation of free and equitable access to information through library resources, training, and materials are the most important freedoms and are the backbone of our ability to be independent thinkers and creators of ideas, evidence, and innovations.
AASL 17th National Conference
Developing powerfully literate citizens requires time to reflect on the myriad issues that are impacting school libraries and schools today. You deserve the chance to rejuvenate your soul and recharge your professional practice through the greatest professional development opportunity for school librarians, the AASL 17th National Conference & Exhibition held in America's heartland in Columbus, Ohio.
The conference includes over IOO general sessions, a best-practice showcase (IdeaLab), an exhibition hall with a makerspace, preconference workshops, school and educational tours, authors, and networking opportunities. Cutting-edge learning will focus on intellectual freedom, STEM/STEAM, Common Core, inquiry learning, digital tools and learning, and so much more.
In addition, some of the greatest vendors of library resources and materials will be at this conference. It also provides multiple opportunities to network with other professionals and learn what others are doing around the country to solve problems, encourage intellectual freedom, inspire learning, develop programming, promote reading, and help students become the best people possible.
Bring an administrator along with you--they receive complimentary registration with a school librarian. Allow your administrator to engage in the programming and discussions that are powerfully meaningful to a school administrator of the twenty-first century.
As Deb Logan and Kathy Lowe, conference co-chairs, said, "Be the connection between evolution and revolution. We are not passive in this changing system. We are advocates for students, teachers, and learning." As you advocate for the information and learning freedoms and needs of others, advocate for yourself; attend the AASL 17th National Conference & Exhibition.
See you there!
American Library Association, n.d. "What Is Intellectual Freedom?" <www.ala.org7advocacy/intfreedom/ censo rshiphrstamendmentissues/ifcensorshipqanda> (accessed June 19, 2015).
Leslie Preddy, 2015-16 AASL President | email@example.com
Leslie Preddy has been the school librarian at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, since 1992, and has served as an adjunct professor for Indiana University, Indiana State University, and IUPUI. She has presented webinars for edWeb, the Indiana Department of Education, and the American Library Association. She is a frequent speaker and consultant at local, state, national, and international education conferences and events. Leslie is a past recipient of AASL's Collaborative School Libray Media Award and School Libray Media Program of the Year Award and ALA's Sara Jaffarian School Libray Program Award for Exemplay Humanities Programming. She is the president of AASL and is a past president for the Association of Indiana School Libray Educators. Her books include SSR with Intervention: A School Library Action Research Project and Social Readers: Promoting Reading in the 21st Century. Her latest book is School Library Makerspaces.