A Model for Core Values in Museums: The Public Library and the Defense of Free Speech

Before 1938, the public library focused mostly on providing lists of “good books” — recommended “quality” literature. But a challenge to Mein Kampf before the outbreak of World War II sparked a fundamental shift in the profession. Since then, the principle of “intellectual freedom” — the right to express oneself freely, and have unfettered access to the expressions of others — became institutionalized in the Library Bill of Rights, interpretations, a host of best practice policies and procedures, and the establishment by the American Library Association of the Office for Intellectual Freedom. This value now constitutes one of the defining characteristics of the field of librarianship. Could it and should it apply to museums?

Presented by James LaRue, Office of Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association