SJSU Portfolio

Competency #1

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

In the decade of the Patriot Act and the digital revolution, I am proud to note that librarians have been on the front lines in the battles over civil liberties and information access. In these conflicts inspirational guidance has been available to the profession in the carefully developed central policy documents of the American Library Association. As a librarian articulating “ the ethics, values and foundational principles” of the profession, I display competence by demonstrating familiarity with and the ability to apply these foundational statements. At the same time, controversy has developed in society and within the profession around several important aspects of these policies; my competency must include understanding of and effective engagement with these arguments in the community(American Library Association Council, 2004, June 29).

The foundational principles and values embodied in the ALA policies can be subdivided into three areas: principles concerning access, those focused on privacy, and matters of the public good. Librarians safeguard intellectual freedom in preserving user access to controversial or contested material. Policies such as “The Freedom to Read Statement”, honed and strengthened over decades, clearly articulate the profession’s rejection of censorship or prior restraint. (American Library Association Council & The Association of American Publishers Freedom to Read Committee, 2004, June 30) In defense of intellectual freedom professional librarians must also support broad and inclusive accessibility by safeguarding access to diverse material which represents the variety of languages, cultures, and special needs of users. For example, Section 53.3 of the ALA Policy Manual, “Linguistic Pluralism” rejects legislation limiting the rights of non-English speakers, and supports providing library materials in languages commonly used in a community (American Library Association 2010).

Librarians and information professionals have been courageous in rejecting governmental demands for access to user information. In “Privacy”, the 2002 to the Intellectual Freedom Manual, both user’s rights to unrestricted inquiry and the private and confidential nature of the records and results of those inquiries are supported by the ALA speaking for library and information professions.

Clearly, our professional core values are grounded in the Bill of Rights and reflect our national heritage of progress toward social justice. These principles call for a foundational focus on the common public good which informs all judgment. As listed on the ALA web page, “Core Values of Librarianship”, among the central concerns reflecting a value for the public good are “Education and Lifelong Learning”,librarians must value and support ongoing educational efforts of citizens. Another core value for our profession is “ Preservation”. The public has entrusted to our profession the preserving and organizing for access of valued records and material for future use— an awesome responsibility. Finally, the ALA “Core Values of Librarianship”, stresses “Professionalism” and “Service”. The public needs and deserves full and equal access to highly trained information professionals who feel a responsibility as public servants. A librarian is a professional whose sense of personal responsibility for the mission and ethics of the profession may require actions which go beyond job descriptions (American Library Association Council, 2004, June 29).

In a highly charged political atmosphere a competent librarian must demonstrate ability to engage effectively in polarized community dialogue. An especially contentious discussion involving core principles of library professionals has developed around the need to balance an interest in protecting children with an interest in providing First Amendment rights, and in preservation of the fifth point in the Library Bill of Rights: “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Although CIPA [The Children’s Internet Protection Act] has mandated filters in public schools receiving Federal funds, “Minors and Internet Interactivity: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” adopted July 15, 2009, by the ALA Council, reaffirms the profession’s commitment to free and equal access for library users of all ages. In fact, however, public library policies on Internet access for youth vary from one community to another. For example, the Sonoma County Library’s Internet access policy clearly states that Internet content is not filtered on the library server and stresses the parental role in supervising access (Sonoma, 2008), while computers in the Chatanooga library offer controlled access in children’s library areas.

Competency for future librarians will include a readiness to take an active, articulate and effective role in their community discussions of this controversy, balancing the values of the profession and the community. In pursuit of reconciliation the ALA education guide “Especially for Young People and Their Parents” recommends carefully crafting written policies, consideration of the physical arrangement of the library, and Internet education for user groups, all of which require skill, sensitivity, and training on the part of librarians (American Library Association, 2007, May 31).

Another serious public debate continues in ongoing attempts to balance national security with individual rights to privacy and free speech. It remains the ALA position that certain elements of the post 9/11 USA PATRIOT Act violate or undermine important constitutional protections for free speech and privacy. A glance online at a sites such as and the support it receives from varied citizens groups shows immediately that this ALA position is controversial; as a competent librarian I will need to monitor revisions to the PATRIOT Act, be aware of current requirements and limits, and be prepared to participate in vigorous local discussions of library responsibilities when dealing with Federal requests for information.

The first piece of evidence I submit for my mastery of this competence is a research paper I wrote for Susan Maret’s Libr 200 class. This paper, which was assigned as research into a self-chosen topic of critical importance in library science, is intended as an overview of Internet filters and a handbook for teachers and librarians choosing and confronting these filters. The paper demonstrates my broad and deep understanding of this complex topic. Issues in Internet filtering in schools and public libraries involve all of the foundational values of librarianship as articulated for the profession by the ALA; this paper displays my grasp of the intellectual freedom and free access issues involved in filtering. The paper shows that I am competent to engage with the legal requirements, legitimate concerns, and unfortunate effects of filtering. Since it includes practical suggestions for mitigating the harms of filtering, this balanced information displays the skill in navigating the difficult path between community attitude and professional concerns which I maintain is a competency for future librarians. Though I find that the content of this paper holds up well, I am appalled at the primitive nature of my APA citation competence at the time of this paper’s composition. If I had been preparing it for inclusion in my portfolio, I would have increased my knowledge and then revised. Also, I now see that the paper is a hybrid of formal research paper and chatty teacher—to—teacher handbook. Ideally, I would have developed these aspects separately.

The next evidence of competency I include is a blog on Young Adult Fiction I created for Beth Wrenn-Este’s Libr 265 class. The assignment required blog postings on 50 YA books including information on subtopics such as plot, critique, and author biography, Most relevant as evidence for this Competency is the information I have included for each book on possible areas for challenges to that book as inappropriate for school or public library YA collections, with links to reviews or other articles testifying to the value and quality of the work in question. Thorough preparation for defense against a potential challenge is one way that an effective librarian safeguards access to controversial material. Here I demonstrate that I am aware of content which may raise challenges and can marshal strong sources for justification and support of material I consider appropriate for the library. If I were creating this blog for library use rather than as a broad assignment, I would choose the books most likely to be challenged and annotate only those. As it is my general list contains many controversial titles, serving as examples of how I am prepared to support access to controversial material in the library.

I am also including an assignment I created for an 11th grade English class preparing to read Huckleberry Finn . This assignment encourages students to consider with respect the often-repeated concern about the book’s harshly racist language, while considering that criticism in light of the educational value and intellectual freedom issues involved. The assignment shows that my ability to articulate the foundational values of our profession supports my instruction as a teacher librarian.

Finally, competence in supporting foundational values requires thorough knowledge of the legal issues which may affect choices, restrictions, and privacy in libraries. I submit as evidence of my competence in this area a paper also written for Susan Maret’s Library 200 class. In the paper I show my understanding of the 1982 Supreme Court Pico decision, which continues to carve out some protected space for personal student use of school libraries even in these post—CIPA days. My overview and analysis of a substantial article demonstrates my ability to apply the foundational values of the profession to the complex realities of current legal parameters.

[As education for the public good is an underlying principal of our foundational values, I also plan to submit as evidence of my competence the program I am creating for Banned Books Week in the end of September 2010.]


American Library Association (2007, May 31). Especially for young people and their parents. Retrieved from

American LibraryAssociation (2010).Intellectual freedom. Retrieved from

American Library Association Council (2002, June 19). “Privacy: an interpretation of the library bill of rights”. In Intellectual Freedom. Retrieved from

American Library Association Council (2004 June 29). Core Values of Librarianship. Retrieved from

American Library Association Council & The Association of American Publishers Freedom to Read Committee (2004, June 30). The Freedom to read statement. Retrieved from

American Library Association Council (2009, July 15). Minors and Internet interactivity: An interpretation of the library bill of rights. Retrieved from

Chatanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library (2009). Internet guidelines. Retrieved from

Sonoma County Library (2008). Internet access policy. Retrieved from