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Title:Intellectual Freedom is Not Social Justice: ALA Accreditation, Symbolic Capital, and LIS Curricula
Author(s):Shockey, Kyle
Subject(s):Library and information science education
Abstract:The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Libraries and Graduate School in Library and Information Science (GSLIS) faculties have remained puzzlingly silent on the academic and speech freedoms issue of Steven Salaita’s revoked tenure position last summer. The American Library Association (ALA), accrediting body for the GSLIS Master of Science degree and similar degrees required for tenure-track librarianship at UIUC, has long been a strident supporter of intellectual freedom and academic freedom as expressed by the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. A GSLIS student-run discussion, “Salaita and the Information Professions,” shed light on the many tensions involved for LIS students, faculty, and professionals in supporting Salaita and opposing the University. A late comment from Dr. Emily Knox highlighted an underexplored tension of supporting Salaita’s position that concerns LIS education: “Intellectual freedom and social justice are not the same thing.” Social justice and critically-focused librarianship studies are largely absent from ALA-accredited LIS curricula. I will argue that this is partly due to the tensions between intellectual freedom as conceived of by the ALA and the activist focus of social justice. Following Emily Knox (2014), I will address the codification and institutionalization of intellectual freedom as a core value of modern American librarianship through the Library Bill of Rights, the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), and the Intellectual Freedom Manual, now in its 8th edition as of 2010. This institutionalization reaches LIS education through the ALA’s Office for Accreditation (OA). The OA grants accreditation based on the guidelines of its Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies, last revised in 2008. The Standards state: “I.2 Program objectives are stated in terms of:…I.2.2 the philosophy, principles, and ethics of the field.” The curriculum is to support the program mission and objectives in terms of “student learning outcomes.” Given the prominent role afforded to intellectual freedom as a core value of the accrediting body, ALA-accredited master’s programs must reflect this value in their curricula in order to remain in line with the Standards. In the Intellectual Freedom Manual, Candace D. Morgan defines intellectual freedom: it “accords to all library users the right to seek and receive information on all subjects from all points of view without restriction and without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others.” This follows the Jeffersonian notion that “[t]he marketplace of ideas must be free and unfettered and, most of all, not restricted by government action” (Morgan 2008). .” LIS education conceived through this classically liberal (and consequently, neoliberal) marketplace framework posits that librarianship is a service profession concerned with ideologically neutral acquisition of, access to, and organization of information that is driven by individual patron inquiry. This framework leaves no space for the professional librarian to interrogate questions of systemic inequality and oppression through librarianship practice. Ideological neutrality in social justice frameworks is a position that supports hegemonic and oppressive practices of state oversight and control. Social justice conceptions of LIS education are at odds with ALA’s conception of intellectual freedom and curriculum creators privilege intellectual freedom-focused rather than social justice-focused conceptions of LIS education to maintain compliance with ALA’s accreditation Standards.
Issue Date:2015-04-11
Series/Report:Proceedings of the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education
Genre:Presentation / Lecture / Speech
Rights Information:Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-06-16

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