10B: Reflection on Class

While I was unable to attend class, I was able to catch up a bit on blog commenting and get a fairly good idea of the discussion by reading my fellow classmates blogs. The discussion ranged from libraries being safe spaces for the community that are distinct from work and home to maintaining neutrality in the collection despite individual and library wide views. What I want to explore more is this question. Neutral according to who?

In my reading of blog posts, I found Russel’s suggest of a case by case determination of what should be considered neutral a very good starting point. He very articulately described his meaning here:

“This might mean making a distinction with collecting policies and patron behavior policies, willing to be flexible in some instances and not others. For example, removing a patron that is shouting racial slurs and banning a book that contains racial slurs are two different situations. They are comprised of contexts that need to be critically considered, not lumped up into a passive notion of neutrality.”

To me, this provides librarians with the opportunity to  represent the minority opinion as well. Where a library may decide against including modern books proposing that the Earth is flat due to the fact they are not empirically based, they can decide to include historical accounts for historical representation and research purposes. Here we reject modern iterations as they are not fact, we can accept historical accounts. I this way a patron holding the minority opinion that the Earth is flat is represented, the library  is seen as maintain its neutrality, and the modern books that may lead uniformed readers astray are left out of the collection.

I wonder if we could extend on the  concept of case by case determinations to improve neutrality through a multiple librarian review. For instance, one person makes a decision on books denying climate change and may say okay because she does not want to marginalize a minority belief. It may then be passed to another librarian who denys the book based on the fact that it has no empirical basis, such as Brian suggested in class. If a third backs up the second librarian, then the book should not be included in the collection.

To me, this ties into ruling out any personal opinions infringing on a librarian’s professional persona. Multiple persona were brought up in multiple blogs concerning the idea of maintaining neutrality. I am of the opinion that subconsciously (and on occasion consciously)  an individuals true views will almost always have some effect on their professional decisions. Alternatively, it could even be that case that in an effort to combat your personal views, you overcorrect professionally and end up with a library and collection skewed the opposite way of your own views. Alone, I believe it would be very difficult to end up with a neutral location and collection. However, working together with multiple librarians, be it through discussion or blind iterated decision making, we may be able to approach neutrality.



2 thoughts on “10B: Reflection on Class

  1. Your idea of multiple librarians working together is fantastic. This seems like it would create a system of checks and balances to help regulate a collection. I would like to hear more about what you would think this would look like? I know currently there tends to be one ordering librarian per collection and they may or may not consult with other librarians about what they are ordering. At least in today’s polarized political climate, this seems like a valuable strategy for certain topics. I personally am not sure how this would be put into practice but the idea has merit. I feel like there would be much resistance to this approach but with the proper planning I think it would work. Ten points to this blog post!


  2. I’m glad my post provided you with some inspiration! The idea of a “checks & balances” process for determining whether to include an item that might not have scientific merit is intriguing and reminds of me of the banned books challenging process the Kristin brought up in class, except this time it is contained within the library staff. My concern with this is whether if this process fails in any way (a book is kept or rejected based on the personal prejudices of the third librarian involved), does the original librarian have a right to appeal that decision? Or does the library manager have sole control on making that final determination? I think these are questions more about management in general, but its relationship to neutrality in collecting policies is quite fascinating! How do we envision our libraries cohesively when those “higher up” than us might have vastly different ideas?


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