Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 23 January 2024

The following post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by a team of OCLC contributors.

Understanding free speech vs. hate speech 

Title page of the 1644 book Areopagitica by John Milton
Title page of the 1644 book Areopagitica by John Milton, via Wikimedia Commons

The intersection of free speech and hate speech has been much in recent news, particularly within the context of higher education.  But that intellectual conflict is hardly new and is certainly not restricted to the realm of colleges and universities.  On 18 January 2024, the Toward Inclusive Excellence (TIE) Blog from ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) published “Resources to Understand Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” a broad and deep list of sources to serve as a background to thinking through the issues.  In a few cases, the list links to full-text versions of such classic works as John Milton’s 1644 Areopagitica, John Stuart Mill’s 1859 On Liberty, and John Dewey’s 1920 Reconstruction in Philosophy.  But most of the references are to order information for more recent (and in a few instances forthcoming) publications by such experts and scholars as New York Law School Professor Emerita Nadine Strossen and Harvard Law School Professor Laura Weinrib.  The list is equally useful for library collection development and for personal study. 

Defining hate speech, determining any limits to free speech, deciding the appropriateness of censorship, distinguishing falsity from truthfulness, dissecting precisely what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution entails, all these discussions are as current as they are classic. Neither the news nor recent political disputes lend themselves to careful consideration of subtleties, but some of these sources may help.  Contributed by Jay Weitz. 

Bills to protect school librarian selections in Massachusetts 

On 16 January 2024, reported on proposed bills in the Massachusetts House and Senate meant to protect school librarian selections and reduce book challenges in the state. The bills would clarify that certified school library teachers choose materials for libraries, while detailing a process for challenged materials that would keep books on the shelves during a review process. The process of removing a book from libraries would require a school committee vote after a public hearing and a review committee, which would include school personnel and the superintendent, meant to determine whether the book did not have “any educational, literary, artistic or social value or is not age appropriate for any children who attend the school.” When State Representative Kelly Pease read an explicit scene from the memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue in opposition to the bills, he was asked by State Senator Jason Lewis if he had read the entire book. “I have not, I will be honest,” Pease replied. “I read some parts of it.” “Maybe we should both read the whole book,” Lewis responded.  

With the exponential increase in book challenges in the last several years, it has become necessary for state legislatures to step in and defend the roles that school and public librarians play in selecting appropriate materials for young readers. I am grateful to states like Massachusetts and Illinois for their efforts to confront the censorship trend. Contributed by Morris Levy. 

Job interview strategies for academic librarians with disabilities 

Librarians with disabilities are the target audience of “Navigating the Academic Hiring Process with Disabilities” (posted 6 April 2022 in the open access journal In the Library with the Lead Pipe). Author Gail Betz describes strategies that emerged from her phenomenological study of the hiring process for academic librarians. (Betz notes that virtual job interviews were not mentioned by any participants, perhaps in part because they were hired pre-COVID-19 lockdowns.) The article summarizes the results of forty interviews conducted with academic library workers who self-identified as disabled. The article’s sections are based on the themes of structural aspects of the interview day, intrapersonal coping strategies, and interpersonal coping strategies. Although hiring managers are not the article’s intended audience, Betz notes that it provides information for library administrators to improve the hiring process for librarians with disabilities. 

There are many excellent resources about accessibility in libraries. However, I have often been disappointed when the needs of library workers with disabilities are acknowledged in one or two sentences, declared “outside the scope” of the resource, or not mentioned at all. I am not a great judge of how useful this article would be to its target audience as I do not work in an academic library and have not had an in-person job interview in twenty years. However, I think there are several issues discussed that could be applied to a virtual job interview situation. Most importantly, I’m glad this article exists for those who may apply its strategies and those who may be inspired to provide further contributions to the subject. Contributed by Kate James.