Library Neutrality

Justifying Neutrality - A Social Institution

The question of the neutrality of libraries and library associations in regard to social issues has been a consistently controversial issue. Berninghausen and Swan have argued that these organizations cannot maintain their role as defenders of intellectual freedom while declaring a position on any social cause. Others, such as Peattie, have contended that some issues require a stand to be taken in the interests of social responsibility. The civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, Apartheid, and the wars in Iraq are all issues on which the library community has been divided as to whether a definite position should be taken or neutrality maintained. A neutral stance, however, empowers the status quo, often at the expense of the underrepresented in society. Libraries must decide on the social principles for which they stand, and support those principles with confidence. Libraries cannot expect their patrons to use their intellectual freedom to make decisions on controversial issues, and refuse that right to themselves. A definite position does not necessitate bias. It means that all sides of an issue have been considered and opinions have been formed, not necessary to the exclusion of others.

Previous Next