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.