Library Neutrality

Justifying Neutrality - Library Spaces

Theoretical discussion of neutrality in the library often centres around intangible policies and abstract notions. But library buildings, the physical spaces that provide a grounding for all that libraries stand for, are places to which neutrality or bias can be applied. Swan and Peattie debated the ethics of unconditional or provisional access to physical space that is maintained by the library. As public buildings, libraries can be at the same time a platform for the espousal of opinion, a sanctuary, an educational institution, a meeting place, and a hangout. And each of these definitions can entail public exposure to unpopular ideas or actions. Intellectual freedom, however, depends upon the free debate of both mainstream and fringe ideas. There is no clear line that divides what is acceptable opinion from ideas that might be false or dangerous and librarians are in no position to draw that line. A position of neutrality surrenders such decisions to the court of democratic assessment where, as a public space, the library is appropriately poised to host all sides of any issue.

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