PRESS RELEASE – March 11, 2013
Rejection of Documentary by Public Library Spurs Intellectual Freedom Reform
For Immediate Release
Northampton, MA – Much to the dismay of a group of local library patrons, an offer to donate a very popular documentary to the Forbes Library was met with rejection. An adviser and spokesman for the group, Wayne Coste, said “After a meeting with the Forbes Library Board of Trustees last week, all of the administrative avenues for donating a documentary into the circulating collection are now closed.”
Coste noted that, “The Library Administration informed us that the documentary we wished to donate “did not seem a good use of shelf space, processing materials, or staff processing time to add your items to the collection.” Coste added that, “Our group is now pursuing a short term initiative to have the documentary ‘processed’ into the circulating collection by calling on numerous patrons to request it. Additionally, we propose a longer term policy to change the way the Forbes Library handles offers to donate non-fiction items.”
Mr. Coste laid out the basis for this reform effort “Researching intellectual freedom policies across the country, it is clear that the American Library Association is addressing the historical precedent where pressure is applied to remove existing items from the circulating collection. What we are addressing here is how to expand materials available in the circulating collection.”
The longer-term proposal aims to change the current practice where approval for non-fiction donations rests solely with the Library Director. The Director is the sole interpreter of the mission statement that includes “continuous sensitivity to the changing needs of the community” as a core criterion. There is no provision for appeal.
The documentary at the center of the controversy centers on the three skyscrapers located at the World Trade Center that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. In the documentary, forty-three experts in fields such as high-rise architecture, structural engineering, chemical engineering, fire-fighting, physic, metallurgy, explosives, controlled demolition come together to explain how the buildings were designed and how they came apart. The documentary, 9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out, also includes psychologists and therapists discussing why this alternative explanation is such a hard message for Americans to hear. Finally, it concludes with family members asking for answers to the evidence raised in the documentary that were never addressed in the 9/11 Commission Report.
The citizen group has stated that under the Forbes Library’s own Collection Development policy, the offered documentary should be welcomed enthusiastically:
“The Library provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas.”
Mr. Coste reports, “Our group feels that the exclusion of important informational materials from the local circulating collection is an unnecessary restriction to the “freedom to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas.”
Furthermore, the Forbes Library policy also states:
“Non-fiction may be excluded for inaccurate information, lack of integrity, sensationalism, intent to indicate hatred or intolerance, and text material of too limited or specialized a nature. In the case of controversial questions, variety and balance of opinion are sought whenever available.”
Reliance on inter-library lending services, such as C/W MARS as the sole mechanism to provide the library’s “balance of opinion” is not acceptable when an item is offered, as a donation, into the circulating collection.
The fact that we need to take these extraordinary steps to have this documentary placed into the circulating collection is prima facie evidence that the issue is controversial and activates this portion of the policy. The group notes that the Forbes Library’s circulating collection has a copy of the NOVA episode “Why the Towers Fell” that has been shown to be erroneous and is in conflict with the official explanation. Mr. Coste says, “The inclusion of the documentary into the collection is not needed to provide a ‘balance of opinion,’ but rather a correction of facts.”
The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights says, among other things,
“Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.”
Mr. Coste continued, “While we greatly appreciate the effort and dedication of the Library Director and the Library staff, from a policy perspective this decision should not fall solely upon the shoulders of any single member of the library staff. The Director’s responsibility is to be a facilitator promoting access to information.” The group has proposed a policy process that would allow for public participation in the selection of non-fiction materials for the circulating collection under specific conditions. More information on this proposal is available at ForbesLibrary.net (where N.E.T. means Non-fiction Educates and Transforms).
The group is considering submitting a formal request to expand the “Freedom to Read Foundation” reporting policies to compile information on books that are known to have been prevented from being included in the circulating collection of a public library.
For more information or for interview requests, contact [masked]
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