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Top librarian in the Southern Tier shares remarks from recent “book challenge” meeting

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Executive Director of the Southern Tier Library System, Brian Hildreth, spoke at a recent Almond Public Library public hearing:

Preface

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

U.S. Constitution –First Amendment

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

American Library Association Bill of Rights –Sections 1 and 2.


By Brian Hildreth, Executive Director of Southern Tier Library System:

I have been a librarian for 25 years. I have purchased tens of thousands of materials, whichhave been read by tens of thousands of people. I take pride in the fact that many of these materials have afforded residents knowledge, understanding, comfort and joy. I also recognize a number of these materials have challenged the way people think, go against the grain of what people believe, and in some cases have offended folks.

Public librarians subscribe to a set of core values, and in particular, values that do their best to provide fair and balanced collections for all. Every person in this community will find something on the shelves of our libraries that they deem offensive. But, removing any of these materials is a slippery slope.

Censorship of library materials, regardless of where they are located in the library, doesn’t just chip away at our democracy. It delivers a powerful, impactful, and permanent blow to our nation’s pillars. History has demonstrated this time and time again both within our great nation as well as others.

Additionally, the First Amendment affords us the freedoms of decision-making. Within the context of laws, we get to decide where we want to go, what we want to do, and what we believe is in the best interests of our families. But, what we don’t get to do is infringe upon others’ rights to make their own decisions. One family may not agree with what another believes, or how they spend their time. Or what books they decide to read. But neither family has the right to limit the others’ way of life.

A freedom to borrow a book, or not borrow a book is an American value. Libraries are an American value. Especially in our rural communities. Taking library materials off shelves, or restricting their access is unequivocally un-American.

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