“Philosophy was once the art of asking extreme, dangerous questions. The task of the philosopher is not simply to argue, as much of contemporary academic philosophy would want us to believe, but also to convince, to move, to stir and, eventually, to shake us to the core.” — Cătălin Avramescu
A typical library collection development policy will usually say, regarding complaints about its materials, something like the following: “In considering such complaints, the following statement from the Library Bill of Rights shall remain paramount: ‘materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.’”
Many libraries make it their primary objective to build and maintain a collection according to the American Library Association guidelines. Not only this, but they promise to uphold and promote the ALA documents on intellectual freedom as found in the Library Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read Statement and the Intellectual Freedom Resolution.
I suggest that taking this approach is a mistake — at least as regards libraries run by private institutions, for example religious ones — and I will attempt to show why by commenting on the brief Library Bill of Rights (LBOR), section by section.
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
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.
The introduction mentions that the following “basic policies” should guide all libraries in their services. The first sentence of part I is not objectionable. The second sentence, while understandable as a statement of idealism and some faith in “science”, is philosophically and morally naïve. For example, librarians do not include certain topics in their collection not only because they are not in accordance with the library’s particular mission, but because they are either uninterested or uninformed regarding certain viewpoints regarding these topics, and sometimes also because they do not wish, in general, to have particular viewpoints which they find immature, offensive, irrelevant, irrational, or threatening represented in their collection. One might counter by saying that this could mean that librarians simply need to work all the more diligently at trying to include as much knowledge and as many viewpoints as possible – simply because “we are finite creatures and are prone to miss or improperly misrepresent views we don’t understand or agree with.” I agree with this critique to some extent, although I think what is important here is to realize that some things will always be “beyond the pale” for most anyone. This is human nature. It is a good thing that we want to discourage some things and some ideas from spreading or being widely accessible. In short, I argue that ALA rhetoric notwithstanding, it is inevitable that “public executions” (i.e. shunning, stigma, shaming) happen to those deemed worthy of them, and any books representing their views share a similar fate. Jonathan Haidt’s new book, “The Righteous Mind” is helpful in this regard especially as regards making this point.
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.
First, see response to I above, as it previews and informs the response here. Which is: a) insisting that all libraries should do this is unnecessary: the library’s mission may have nothing to do with these issues. b) many libraries are, for example, religious – therefore, not all libraries who cover current and historical issues need to reflect the popular thinking in the world, but may in fact intentionally seek to challenge it, much like Martin Luther King Jr. did in his fight for the civil rights of black Americans. c) not even public libraries and academic institutions that operate under the auspices of the state necessarily want to present “all points of view on current and historical issues”. While it is no doubt a good idea for libraries to collect materials that try to accurately describe the world and the movements within it – in more or less detail – materials putting forth contemporary narratives and factual information that exists specifically to promote genocide vs. this or that group, neo-Nazism, racism, sexism, holocaust denial, undermining current laws and regulations en route to getting access to young children for sexual purposes, effective Islamic terrorism, how to directly undermine American democracy etc. in our world today are unlikely to find a place in the stacks of the vast majority of these libraries. I submit that this would hold true even if there were groups in a library’s community who hold to these views.
Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
At some point – age eighteen seems a decent enough number – persons come to be considered full adults and should be able to legally read what they want free from parental control and influence. I also agree fully that libraries should be in favor of books not being banned or censored in the wider context of the United States of America. However, conflating books that are challenged in libraries with “banned books” or “censorship” cheapens the struggles of persons who live in societies where certain books really are banned throughout the country as a whole. Although the intent is to engage and educate young persons about the importance of the freedom to read, I argue that it usually does not meet this goal as it should (see footnote 6 for more details, and see here for a person of the secular liberal persuasion saying much the same thing, only not as nicely). On the one hand, we can make a distinction between upholding freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly and on the other hand taking active steps – perhaps tirelessly active steps – to make sure that absolutely all views – of the majority and minorities – are available (again, something I argue [see responses to I and II above] that none of us do or want to do or even really think we should do anyways).
Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
In general, when it comes to free access to ideas, I agree with this ideal and seek to uphold it (particularly when it means people being able to access books from more traditional Christians in the world of academia, who I consider to be some of the best informed persons in the world!). Freedom of thought, speech, press, assembly and religion are always desirable for human beings, and I think that the rights described in the Bill of Rights help make for one of freest societies possible on earth. Not only this, but I believe in order to attain to and preserve this kind of free society, we need, among other things, to allow in the wider public square even views that we find particularly odious (see footnote 10 below). As for the “transcendent value of free expression”, which some librarians promote and say that private libraries should be a part of, I do not know what that means. Does “transcendent” here mean “divine”? If so, since we are talking about specific values deriving from this God, which view of God is this and why should we believe it? Does value here necessarily mean “inalienable human right.? If so, is the only limit physical harm that can be immediately discerned to be just that? Does “free expression” derive from the right of free speech? Is “consent” the key here? For what ages? For activities done in private or public? How does this fit with other people’s values, particularly those who feel they have been given freedom not primarily to express themselves, their identity, etc., but primarily in order to do what is right – which also means restraining many of their own desires for the good of all? In other words, I do not know if I believe in any “transcendent value of free expression”. I do believe that “tolerance” can be a very valuable and necessary political notion, perhaps akin to how some very liberal librarians still believe that giving parents the right to supervise their children’s book borrowing can be valuable and necessary in the present time.
A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
In general, I agree with this statement. See the paper mentioned in footnote 7 for ethical issues that may arise here. Further, there is the concern for “age appropriateness” as well – what does “should not be… abridged because of… age” mean? 
Libraries that make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
In general it seems like a good principle. I am sure we all have our limits though.
In the end, I think that we do need a sound collection development policy to guard against sheer private opinion and prejudice. That said, I argue that it is not advisable for institutions that are explicitly religious to attempt to do this primarily by appealing to principles of “intellectual freedom” – enshrined for example, in this document. 
 The “Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” as well as the latest edition (8th) of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, was also referenced for this essay.
 Concrete example: what did I learn from reading books featuring different views on sex education? They are talking past one another – for good reason. We are all ideologues, and generally, the persons who write the books on controversial topics are more so. Both sides claim, I submit rightly, that the others are “ideologues” and “catechists” (as in “catechesis”, what the church does), blinded by biases which will not allow them to see the truth, or the whole truth. They both tout the science and statistics in their own favor. When it comes to the most developed thinking from both perspectives, we see that we simply have here fundamentally different worldviews and moralities (whatever common ground may be shared among those who possess them). It is interesting that as regards sex education, both sides want to say that their claims “work” and are in line with “what science says”, even as, I suggest, for those most committed to these views that is decidedly not what this is about. Rather, it is simply about what people want to defend is right and wrong. And yes, what is said to be right or wrong is often – but not always – said to be connected with science and what “works” in this or that sense (seen in our conceptions of “sustainable human flourishing” which by definition seek to avoid “reality bouncing back” – whether we are primarily focusing locally or globally, in the short-term or the long-term, etc.) – but not always. For example, to take the issue of gay marriage, it is interesting that some very sophisticated persons will say, for example, that whether or not kids in general do better with a mom or dad is not an important issue, period: civil rights are. Evidently, “science” can be left to hang here. I do not doubt that many feel “civil rights” is a good principle to be devoted to, but what happens when the reasons for civil rights are reflected on in order to be made explicit? Is there a sound philosophical and intellectual basis for the existence of civil rights or does it simply come down to exercising our own will to power in the way that we want to? And if the existence of “civil rights” can be justified with some sound philosophical grounding, what is the basis for how those rights are conceived both abstractly and in the concrete? I think it is not impolite to expect answers to this!
In sum, sometimes people are open about their moral claims and the influence they think they should have, and other times less so. But in many debates, no one can really say that they are primarily justifying their claims on the basis of “science”.
 We are here dealing with unavoidable philosophical questions having to do with person’s more or less developed worldviews and the ethics that go with them as well as the issue of epistemology, that is, how we know what we know.
Everyone also ought to know that some things need not and should not be doubted (at least in their personal lives), for while some knowledge can certainly be created through doubt, much also comes through and from persons we trust, present and past – which often is able to be backed up with some good evidence and reasons (perhaps not “beyond a shadow of a doubt” but “beyond a reasonable doubt”). That persons may be doubted and that evidence and reasons may be false does not change this very human truth. Finally, I suspect everyone knows that certain kinds of knowledge can be particularly dangerous in the wrong hands.
 In this case at least, I agree with the notion that the “library must be free of external politics”, quoted by an essayist in the book True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries (p. 62). Of course, that author was making that statement in order to assert that libraries must be totally neutral and that this entails defending pornographic and erotic materials in libraries.
 According to a friend, years ago the University of Wisconsin Library at Madison was prohibited by its constitution from purchasing theological books. The prohibition was gotten around in some cases by purchasing titles for courses in history of civilization or comparative religion, which was apparently permissible. This same friend told me the following: “The only library that could meet the ALA requirements strictly would be a library run by people for whom nothing matters; not even Google meets ALA requirements because of its reliance on relevance ranking and the desire to make money.”
 Other topics unlikely to find promotion in public libraries, even if put forth by more or less intelligent sounding voices using arguments they and some others at least find compelling: the case for child marriage (see June 2011 National Geographic), the case for foot-binding, the case for female circumcision, the case for child sacrifice (see news reports from Uganda), the case for sati (widow burning), etc. Really, if we are going to speak about how important a diversity of voices is here, where is the cultural sensitivity for these minority groups and their most educated and articulate voices? I understand that the views of these cultures are probably seen as “conservative” by many (I suppose in some sense they are, though it’s not a conservatism I sympathize with ; from my view, evidence from the past shows us that most all ancient cultures, save that of the Jews and a few other exceptions, were “conservative” in that the desires of the strongest men were fully met with little resistance to their will. In other words, as regards something like sex [which may or may not be accompanied by a desire to physically or psychologically dominate and/or diminish the other] their desires for physical pleasure are met much like they are in the popular pornographic novel Fifty Shades of Gray, simply without the concern or sensitivity for the notion of free consent from those not having as much power as they), on what basis does the person arguing against these things avoid the charge of being driven by their own “personal fears and prejudices”? How do they know that this is not the case (after all, why not consider that when one really listens to these folks, they might make a convincing case that they really are attempting to “love their neighbor” in this or that sense, for this or that reason. Perhaps after a heart-to-heart it will seem that their views really do “respect and build relationships” – although not in a sense we had been familiar with before…)? They can’t say they are simply being responsible either, because modern librarians know that to act like a “moral guardian and babysitter” is to be an irresponsible librarian.
But this is wrong. For example, the cataloger Francis Miska, in his audio program “The Genius of Cataloging” notes that the original focus of the 19th century library movement was “to deliver the best books by the best authors to a public, who by reading them would become mentally cultivated.” The focus was not to give books to people because they “can do something with it” (practical use), but because of “what a book would do to them.” It seems to me that no librarian should fool him/herself about any supposed “neutrality” on their part – they have views about life and how we should live that they want to inculcate in others, just like anybody else.
 Even if “Diversity in Collection Development”, an official “interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”, asserts the following: “Librarians have an obligation to protect library collections from removal of materials based on personal bias or prejudice, and to select and support the access to materials on all subjects that meet, as closely as possible, the needs, interests, and abilities of all persons in the community the library serves. This includes materials that reflect political, economic, religious, social, minority, and sexual issues.” In addition, information about how to freebase cocaine, build bombs and biological and chemical weapons is something libraries should neither obtain nor promote. For one of the best reflections I have seen on these kinds of library ethics, specifically addressing and critiquing the ALA’s Code of Ethics, see here for a paper by one of my good friends, Jason Schock (https://docs.google.com/file/d/1-fmwCRXhZDj0eqofT8sNl2memrzwzgYAmyOZlZiIxOrtCRnSY-S2pu0Pn8S2/edit?usp=sharing )
 There are some strict German laws relating to Nazi literature and to my knowledge this is justified in the eyes of most anti-censorship activists.
 Here I mention the thoughts of most founders of this country regarding how critical it is for a democratic republic such as ours to have persons who restrain themselves, so that government does not have to.
 American Library Association. (2010). Intellectual freedom manual. Chicago: American Library Association, p. 8.
There is a well-known quote from Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. My thought on this is that in some political contexts – where, in general, the society is characterized by high levels of Christian religious conviction and a general respect for other human beings – it makes sense to make this sacrifice for others. On the other hand, I contend that this still does not mean that an individual or especially a government or government entity needs to amplify, encourage, or subsidize the ability of all to communicate their viewpoints. We may allow neo-Nazis the right to assemble, have a parade, etc, just like anyone else, making sure that there are some private and public channels that they have access to (see the Skokie parade the ACLU defended). That does not mean we ourselves need to take active steps to promote their views, but we may actually take steps to discourage them – even as we make sure they have the ability to believe it, say it, and promote it through their own efforts – all without incurring physical harm, loss to personal property, etc. This is real “toleration”, which I think is politically valuable and important, even if, sometimes, it seems distasteful. I can find biblical precedence for something like this notion of tolerance in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), and the Father’s tolerance for his behavior.
Part of this Christian consciousness involves the idea that God respects individual persons’ freedom to resist Him (we get what we want), and it only seems right and fair that Christians should be able to resist other religions as well. Hence, to be fair, people should be free to resist all particular religions, even as, when it comes to general matters of personal freedom and sensible governance (including justice), Christians try to persuade others (civilly) through “natural law” argumentation (while making it clear we are, in fact, Christians), which does not preclude talking about the very real felt human consensus about a general Deity(s)/Divine Nature that inhabits (and is responsible for) the cosmos.
I note that only in the West have persons had so much freedom to live as they see fit. I believe that this is due to the heritage of Christian tolerance (Nietszche, Islam [?]: “weakness”) and its influence in our society (see developed argument here). For example, western culture’s shift away from arranged marriages to marriages based on mutual choice is a good thing. It is a Christian idea – we do not choose God but He does allow us to leave – to disown Him. This is the reason why free consent is now considered to be at the heart of marriage in the West (on the other hand, some misunderstand the limits of free consent, seeing it, for example, as the defining moral principle in sexual relationships – see here).
Where are the limits of this tolerance? Well, I would never be OK with materials that are pornographic or erotic (constructed with some intent to sexually arouse and excite, whether for pleasure or profit) in libraries, period (for a “sophisticated case” that I think has the potential to appeal to many secular liberals who may be particularly hard to persuade, see the essay “Preludes to a theory of obscenity” by John Durham Peters in the 2011 book “Obscenity and the limits of liberalism”, edited by Loren Glass and Charles Francis Williams). We should do absolutely everything that we can do to discourage pornography use and make it difficult and cumbersome. If, due to its increasing popularity and mainstreaming, people want to look at it from a critical perspective – particularly “literary works” that are said to have some “redeeming value” (can the same value the book has be found elsewhere though?) – materials on the topic can be bought in conjunction with a class and the items put on reserve for that class. I would argue that should hold true for public academic libraries and not only private religious ones.
 American Library Association. (2010). “The Universal Right to Free Expression”, Intellectual freedom manual. Chicago: American Library Association p. 195
 For example, I think that the best policy for public libraries is not only requiring parent’s or guardian’s permission to sign up for a library card and giving them full monitoring privileges, but also enabling them to choose whether or not their children may have borrowing privileges for the non-juvenile materials. On the library’s part, books that may not be appropriate for minors need not be displayed where little eyes can see them. Perhaps in some cases, it might make sense to put a book cover on a book, not necessarily because of an “implication of disapproval”, but because of these age-appropriate concerns. Finally, see my comments about pornography in the footnote above.
 Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996. A history of the Library Bill of Rights is found in the latest edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual.
 Interestingly, up until recently, many Christian churches in New York state were being told that they could not rent space from public schools because it was a violation of the separation of church and state. In my mind, it is amazing – just amazing – that educated public officials would be thinking this way. That said, if practitioners of Mayan religion wanted to do human sacrifices in those schools, obviously appeals to religious freedom would be called into question!
 After reading this paper a friend made the following comment: “Does a Christian university library have a right to its patron to limit its collection in support of Christian truth? In today’s pluralistic society, we exalt freedom of choice and minimize truth or even believe that truth cannot be found, if only by individual choice. Perhaps a conservative library taking pains to evaluate its collection and make sure it has first and foremost books that support the school mission is a good thing—maybe even admirable.” I think that is right, and have done a bit more writing now to this effect. I am willing to share that essay for any who would like to explore this topic more. Also, for a good account by persons reconsidering the LBOR from a more secular perspective, see this paper (it is just part of a larger philosophical argument here though).