Library ethics and access
20 December 2023
Libraries and their staff increasingly find themselves navigating challenges related to intellectual freedom, censorship, and intolerance towards diverse perspectives, especially evident in instances of LGBTQ+ book bans and restrictions on library programs. The IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Professionals underscores the librarian’s duty to provide unrestricted access to information, promote inclusivity, and eliminate discrimination, emphasizing equal rights for all, irrespective of various characteristics.
Libraries strive to reflect their communities comprehensively, allowing individuals, regardless of background, to access a diverse range of materials, including those representing LGBTQ+ experiences. Ensuring equality and non-discrimination is a fundamental principle. LGBTQ+ communities, facing unique information needs, seek support in areas such as identity exploration, mental and physical wellness, understanding policies, LGBTQ+ history, and community resources. However, meeting these needs poses challenges, considering factors like local dynamics, social environments, and potential isolation.
Library workers must navigate competing values, ongoing book bans, and backlash against the LGBTQ+ community. Balancing community values with immutable principles like inclusivity and intellectual freedom is crucial. Despite these challenges, libraries have an opportunity to strengthen their commitments by understanding community concerns and adapting policies accordingly. A robust collections development policy should encompass diverse representations, sensitivity to community needs, and materials professionally reviewed for quality and relevance.
Efforts to provide inclusive collections and services are evident in initiatives like the Two Spirit Research Guide, LGBTQIA Youth Specific Virtual Reference Service, and LGBTQ+ education for library personnel, as documented on the IFLA LGBTQ+ Users SIG Blog. Through such initiatives, libraries can demonstrate their relevance and value to the wider community.
Thomas Chaimbault-Petitjean, Convenor, IFLA LGBTQ+ Users SIG