ATG Book of the Week: Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries

by | Feb 9, 2020 | 0 comments

Title: Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries
Author: Shannon M. Oltmann
Paperback: 978-1440863127, $55
Imprint: Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2019

“All librarians and library and information science scholars can benefit from learning more about intellectual freedom. This book relies on research and practical real-world scenarios to conceptualize and contextualize it.

Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries is helpful for a wide range of people, from those only starting to learn about intellectual freedom to those more well-versed in the subject. For novices, it offers a solid introduction to intellectual freedom, grounded theoretically and empirically; for more experienced scholars and librarians, it provides a uniquely comprehensive analysis of intellectual freedom.

Intellectual freedom is important for librarians because it is a foundation of the profession and is truly central to librarianship in the United States. Situating intellectual freedom within freedom of speech theories, this book explains the legal and theoretical foundations for contemporary understandings of intellectual freedom within library science. Additionally, it depicts the importance of community to implementing intellectual freedom and exemplifies this importance in a discussion of actual library practices. Real-world scenarios provide a timely look at intellectual freedom in context, discussing Internet filtering, collection development and weeding, meeting rooms and exhibit spaces, programming, and fake news and misinformation…”


Oltmann, a long-time contributor to intellectual freedom literature (and current editor of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy) has written a clear, thoroughly accessible overview of the current free speech landscape. She offers a fresh critique of some First Amendment theories (can the excesses of social media qualify as “pursuit of the truth?”). She considers the MeToo movement in light of historic library positions. Her inclusion of copyright as a potential restriction of access is also timely and thoughtful. Recommended for all library collections.” (James LaRue, CEO of LaRue & Associates, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom from 2016–2018)

Dr. Oltmann’s wonderful book provides a well-researched, thorough guide to understanding and practicing intellectual freedom in libraries. Readers are carefully led through the concepts and issues that shape contemporary support for intellectual freedom in librarianship. Instead of providing answers, Dr. Oltmann encourages readers to engage with some of the thorniest issues facing libraries today including the Me Too Movement, the provision of public space, and misinformation. By the end of the book, readers will know how to apply the principles of intellectual freedom to all of these issues. This is a much-needed practical guide to intellectual freedom and librarianship.” (Emily Knox, Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

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