What is Intellectual Freedom
The origins of intellectual freedom are found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and defined as follows:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Intellectual freedom is recognized as a fundamental freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and forms the basis of a democratic system. It advances knowledge, allows individuals to learn and grow, and supports open and informed discourse and decision making.
The Role of The Library in Intellectual Freedom
Libraries have a core mandate and professional obligation to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. In Canada, libraries have a legal responsibility to uphold and protect the principles of intellectual freedom as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as a legislated, publicly funded, government organization. In Alberta, this legislation is the Libraries Act and Regulations.
As democratic public organizations that are widely accessible and committed to equity, libraries play a vital role in making intellectual freedom a reality. This core value and fundamental principle is defended, promoted, and supported by national and international library associations including the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the American Library Association, and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA). Specifically, CFLA affirms that “all persons in Canada have a fundamental right, subject only to the Constitution and the law, to have access to the full range of knowledge, imagination, ideas, and opinion, and to express their thought publicly”. The Calgary Public Library endorses both the IFLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom and the CFLA Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom.
At Calgary Public Library, intellectual freedom means providing the tools and spaces to support the free exchange of information and ideas and respecting each individuals’ right to privacy and choice. The Library’s commitment to intellectual freedom aligns with the Library’s vision, mission, and values, and supports the Board Policy on Equity and Belonging.
Through its professional and legal obligation to intellectual freedom, the Calgary Public Library:
- Is committed to equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility and the pursuit of Truth and Reconciliation. Equity and intellectual freedom are mutually reinforcing and the Library will strive to support all voices in being heard (particularly those from equity-deserving groups) by creating a welcoming and inclusive environment while upholding the principles of freedom of expression and human rights.
- Will provide access to a breadth and depth of ideas, information and thoughts through library services (including collections, programs, displays, meeting room rentals, and internet access) that encourage informed discussions, diverse opinions, and learning in our communities. In using library services, some individuals may come across ideas and information that they consider controversial, unconventional, unpopular, or offensive. The inclusion of content within the Library’s services does not indicate endorsement.
- Will offer services that welcome and encourage individuals to learn and exchange diverse thoughts and perspectives and to pursue their interests, without judgement, provided they do not violate the Library’s Code of Conduct, the Canadian Copyright Act, Canada’s Criminal Code, or the Canadian Human Rights Act.
- Will respect the individual’s right to privacy, dignity, and choice. The ultimate right and responsibility in what someone wishes to read, view, listen to, or access at the library rests with the individual. In the case of children under the age of 18, this responsibility rests with the parent or guardian.
- Will provide staff with the training and tools required to uphold the principles of Intellectual Freedom. This includes providing a transparent process for the inclusion and challenging of library collections and accessible options for providing feedback on library services.