Balancing Inclusion and Freedom of Expression
28 October 2021
A new IFLA background paper explores questions and practices around moderation of third-party content in libraries.
A fundamental commitment of the global library field is to intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. Alongside it, there is an ever-increasing awareness and evolving understanding of the steps and measures needed to deliver on social justice – which, for libraries, is also deeply intertwined with their longstanding work to champion equity and support the most vulnerable members of their communities.
These goals often go hand in hand – for example, in helping create platforms and spaces for expression for underserved or vulnerable groups, and working to best meet their information needs.
But there are also cases where libraries find themselves needing to balance such crucial considerations – inclusion and freedom of expression, social justice and free speech.
Whether it is a controversial group seeking to book a library room or objectionable language in an item in a library’s collection, information professionals in different parts of the world grapple with the complex questions these raise.
Many factors give rise to a wide array of library responses in such a scenario– including the type of content and of objectionable speech in question, the local understanding of intellectual freedom values, library type, libraries’ own policies and the wider legal frameworks they operate in.
This background paper seeks to outline and map the range of library responses to situations where third-party content calls for balancing freedom of expression and inclusion considerations. It also outlines some suggested good practices and lessons learned from the wider content moderation discourse.
We hope this could be helpful in supporting the ongoing discussion and debate around this topic. We look forward to continuing this dialogue – and if there are any ideas, suggestions, good practices or learnings you would like to flag, don’t hesitate to let us know!
Download the background paper:
This background paper offers an overview of the broad range of library responses to scenarios where working with third-party content or events raises questions around inclusion and freedom of expression.